Pamela L Carter: destined to be a lawyer ... and destined to be a corporate director.

Author:McCarthy, Kelly
Position:MY FIRST BOARD
 
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When Pamela L. Carter was elected attorney general for the state of Indiana in 1993 she not only was the first woman and first African American to serve the state in that position but became the first African American woman in the country to be elected a state's attorney general. Today she is president of the distribution business for Cummins Inc., the $13 billion manufacturer and marketer of diesel engines and related components and power systems. She serves on several boards, including CSX Corp., the $11 billion rail-based transportation services company, which she joined in 2010.

AS TOLD TO KELLY MCCARTHY

I always knew I was going to be a lawyer.

It wasn't as much an ambition as it was a reality for me. In fact, I can't remember a time when I didn't know about the law, or what it constituted. That's because my grandfather, who was the son of a slave, instilled in me the desire to practice law.

His father was a well-respected blacksmith on the plantation who was killed when he left the South shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation. Not surprisingly, when my grandfather left for the north at 14 he was illiterate. And yet, he would have a tremendous journey. Not only did he learn how to read and write from people who helped him along the way, he studied the law. And from the time I was a child he was quoting to me from Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England," which he had memorized. I discovered that he had memorized the "Commentaries" while a law school student. I reviewed the books and discovered I knew verbatim many of the passages which my grandfather had quoted to me over the years. Amazing.

I was practicing law with the firm of Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis soon after I had declared my candidacy to run for the office of attorney general. I won this statewide election and served from 1993-1997, becoming the first woman and first African American to serve as attorney general in the state of Indiana. I was also the first African American female in the United States elected to that office.

After completing my term of office, I returned to the private sector as a partner in a law firm. At that time, I represented Cummins Inc. on some cases. Cummins was seeking legal support and representation on some major legal issues and they wanted me to take the case. But due to the nature of the case, their preference was for me to become their VP-general counsel and corporate secretary.

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At that time, I had no...

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