New Zealand Law Society - Thomas Gerald Norman Carter, 1916 - 2011

Thomas Gerald Norman Carter, 1916 - 2011

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Norman Carter who died recently at the age of 94 has been described as an exemplary practitioner of the old school.

He was born in 1916 in Warkworth and lived in Helensville until the family moved to Lower Hutt in the 1920s where he attended Hutt Valley High School. Until his death he was one of the longest surviving pupils of that school.

He began his legal career in the 1930s as a law clerk at the Wellington firm of Bunny and Barrett, later to be Bunny Gillespie, while studying law at Victoria University College. The Second World War interrupted his studies and led him to a half a decade of character-defining experiences.

As part of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, he went to Scotland in 1940 for basic military training. He fought with the 22nd Infantry Battalion, of which he was one of the original officers, in North Africa and Crete. He was captured in Crete in 1942, and remained a prisoner of war, first in Italy and then in southern Germany, until war’s end. In later years, many of his associates enjoyed listening to his vividly recalled stories of that time.

Norman also met his first wife Edna in Scotland in 1940 and they were married in 1945 when he returned to Britain at the end of the war.

He had some involvement in courts martial during his war years which stimulated a strong interest in military law and a text on military law was a prominent feature of his office. He continued service as an officer in the Territorial army for some years.

Norman Carter was admitted to the Bar in June 1947 and by the early 1950s he was a partner in the Lower Hutt firm of Hogg Gillespie Carter and Oakley. Bill Sheat, who remembers meeting Norman working in the Lower Hutt magistrate’s court in the 1950s, says Hogg Gillespie Carter and Oakley did most of the Lower Hutt City Council’s legal work.

“Neil Gillespie was nominally city solicitor but in fact Norman did much of the work. The firm handled all the legal work for the council … including the massive subdivision now known as Maungaraki. The firm had many large clients … in addition to the council there was the regional drainage board, the river board and Foodstuffs.” Norman Carter was involved in the arduous legal work required by the acquisition of the patchwork of land needed for Hutt River flood protection schemes during the 1970s.

But it was as a family lawyer that Norman Carter excelled. As Bill Sheat says, this was not spectacular work but it engendered the trust of his clients. “Norman had a large number of personal clients who relied on him for a wide range of advice. They recognised his worth and repaid it with long lasting loyalty… You knew that if you had a deal with him everything would be done properly. He could always be relied upon to do the right thing…The many young lawyers who worked for his firm speak well of him as a mentor and teacher.”

Norman was a dedicated Rotarian for 50 years. He was Lower Hutt club president for 1976/77, and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship in 1996, the highest Rotary award for outstanding service, and the Sapphire Pin in 2007. He continued his interest in Rotary until prevented by ill health, and was awarded honorary membership. He was also active in the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce and was elected its president in 1967.

The firm of Hogg Gillespie Carter and Oakley worked as two more or less independent offices for many years, one in Lower Hutt and the other in Wellington. The split was formalised from the beginning of 1990 with the establishment of Oakley Moran in Wellington and Carter Mayne in Lower Hutt. Norman Carter continued in partnership with David Mayne until his retirement from practice late in the 1990s.

This obituary was first published in Council Brief, May 2011.

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