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2018 Women of Influence Honoree: Linda Carter-Lewis


Linda Carter-Lewis worked in human resources, mostly at CDS Global, which connected her with many.

“I’ve had the opportunity to touch so many lives,” she says. “People surprisingly ask my opinion all the time. I have to try to be more humble and not take things for granted. I stand on the shoulders of many people.”

She learned from her once “rabble rouser” husband, Larry Carter, that courting a relationship with the police and fire leadership is a good idea for a civil rights leader. Carter led the NAACP during years when the organization and national forces pushed for more diversity on those squads. Years after Larry died, Linda also served as president of the local NAACP from 2002 to 2010. 

As Larry had when he gave up rabble-rousing and became a vice president of Dial Corp., later Norwest, Linda adopted a quiet, respectful leadership style that opened doors. Her drive to help people led to service on many community organizations. 

She tried to retire, but people kept asking for her view. “I’ve been able to continue to influence,” Carter-Lewis said. “What motivates me is the great need I see in so many parts of the community. There is just something inside that says, ‘you can do that.’ I just feel I have to be involved.

Part of that is the need to continue to push for diversity, fair treatment and equal opportunities. 

Carter-Lewis said that when she is at the table, it sends a message. “If there is not a face in the place, our point of view and information get forgotten.”

Her leadership extends well beyond the board rooms. After husband Larry Carter died, she eventually married the Rev. Irvin Lewis, leaving St. Paul AME Church to join Lewis’ King of Kings Missionary Baptist Church. She is a member of the choir and a church pianist even now, after years of teaching classes and serving on the finance committee and in other roles. 

“I have always been in church,” she said. “I have to give back. I have the favor of God. I can’t just sit on it.”

Her own relatively modest upbringing drives her service.

Her father worked in meat-packing. “We didn’t have TV in the early ’50s, so we watched through a friend’s window. I had some times when I had to watch pennies when I had kids.”

But Carter-Lewis considers her life blessed and comfortable. 

She retired from CDS in 2007 and had every intention of working on her golf game. But she said the other day she hadn’t played in two years. Why? Too busy serving. “My golf partners are getting on me.”

She likes to travel, but there almost always is a professional conference involved. Her idea of fun is her role on the Civil Service Commission, which helps guide hirings for police and fire vacancies, for example. “I love it,” she says. In her spare time, she has helped screen candidates for magistrate court.

“I have the ‘can’t help its,’” she explains. She just can’t say no to service. And it’s not like there is a high risk. “I say ‘fire me’” if deadline issues arise. 

Of course, she is smart enough to have good role models. Her mentor is Catherine Williams, age 103, who still drives and lives alone.

No wonder Carter-Lewis continues to influence lives.

Areas of Influence:

  • A dedicated civil rights activist, she is the former president of the local NAACP.
  • A longtime human resources worker, she often is sought out for career advice and for guidance on volunteer opportunities.
  • She serves on the Des Moines Civil Service Commission.

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