Portrait from the Courts and Legal Profession of Iowa, 1907.
Named in honor of Memnon (an ancient Ethiopian king and defender of Troy during the Trojan War), Memnon Jackson Carter was for many years a lawyer in Winneshiek County, Iowa, later serving a two year term as County Attorney. Further political honors would be accorded to him in 1900 when he was a candidate for Democratic presidential elector, and in 1906 was an unsuccessful aspirant for the U.S. House of Representatives.
The son of Ohio natives Mahlon G. and Mary Jackson Carter, Memnon Jackson Carter was born Waynesville, Ohio on March 11, 1849. Why Mahlon and Mary Carter decided to bestow the name of "Memnon" upon their son remains a mystery, but this regal sounding name obviously had its advantages, as Carter would go on to a distinguished career in the public forum. The Carter family left Warren County, Ohio when Memnon was a child and resettled in Winneshiek County, Iowa in 1856. He would attend the "district schools" during the wintertime and, after being left fatherless at age eighteen, took care of his mother and younger brother, William Warren. During this time Carter worked at farming and in 1874 relocated to Ossian, Iowa, where he took on a clerkship in the general store of one D.D. Rosa.
Carter's time as a clerk lasted but three months, whereafter he began the study of law under attorney G. L. Faust. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1877 and two years prior had entered into his first public office, that of Deputy clerk for Decorah, Iowa. Three years following his opening a law practice, Carter joined L.A. Meyer in forming the Bank of Ossian, and in 1885 added the title of newspaper owner to his resume, purchasing the Ossian Bee. Carter transformed that paper into an eight-page "straight democratic organ", published weekly. The Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa also notes that Carter had extensive real estate holdings, owning an "eighty-acre farm near Austin, Minnesota" as well as a two hundred and eight-acre farm in Howard County, Iowa. Carter married in Ossian in May 1878 to Martha "Mattie" B. Harvey (1854-1941), and later had one son, Ralph Waldo, in 1879.
One of Ossian, Iowa's prominent men of affairs, Memnon Carter served a total of ten years as mayor of that town, and for thirteen years was treasurer of the Ossian Independent school district. He was for eight years a member of the Democratic State Central Committee (representing Winneshiek County) and in 1890 defeated John B. Kaye in the race for Winneshiek County Attorney. He would serve one term in that post (1891-1893) and was defeated for reelection by E.P. Johnson in November 1892.
From the "Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa", Vol. II, 1899.
Following his time as County Attorney Carter was a candidate for Democratic Presidential Elector for Iowa in 1900, and six years later received the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa's 4th district. Running against Carter in that election was incumbent Congressman Gilbert N. Haugen, who had represented that district since 1899. On election day it was the Republicans who triumphed, with Haugen besting Carter by nearly 8,000 votes. He would continue to represent the 4th district in Congress for another twenty-seven years, dying in office in 1933, having served a total of thirty-five years as a U.S. Representative.
After his congressional defeat, Carter returned to his law practice in Ossian and was involved in several Winneshiek County fraternal organizations, including the Elks lodge, the Knights of Pythias, the Knights Templar, the El-Kahir Temple of Shriners, and the Modern Woodmen of America. Carter had also served as a Past Master of the Arcturus Lodge, #237 of Free and Accepted Masons. Memnon J. Carter died in 1934 at age 85. His wife Mattie survived him by several years and following her death in 1941 was interred alongside Memnon at the Centennial Cemetery in Winneshiek County.