Remembering Dixie Carter and the greatness of Julia Sugarbaker


Dixie Carter, who for many of us is will forever be Julia Sugarbaker, passed away on Saturday. She was 70. The actress spent seven seasons as the senior Sugarbaker sister on Designing Women. During that time she cemented her status as the funniest, fiercest, most feminist heroines in TV history.

The Tennessee native appeared on stage, screen and television as an actress and singer through six decades. Her last major TV appearance was a stint on Desperate Housewives, and two years ago she completed her last film with longtime husband, the actor Hal Holbrook. They were married for 26 years.

As Julia, Dixie was often the very definition of righteous indignation. The smart, sophisticated Southern Belle had many a clashes with the small-minded, closed-minded and simple-minded on the show and always bested them in her classic Terminator style.

A few of the best moments from “The Terminator”:

Julia vs. men in history:

Julia vs. the conservative candidate:

And, of course, Julia vs. the reigning Miss Georgia:

While the show tackled everything from sexism to homophobia, Dixie was actually a Republican in her personal life. But she was always warm and open to her fans, no matter their political affiliation or sexual orientation. In a 1998 interview with MetroWeekly, she voiced her support:

MW: Let’s get some opinions from you. Do you have any thoughts on gay rights?

I think that gay rights should exist.

MW: Let me be more specific. What about the possibility of gay marriage?

That’s hard for me, because I’m very old fashioned, very old-timey. So that idea is hard for me. On the other hand, maybe the most loving marriage that I’ve ever seen is a gay marriage. It has not been codified as such by the church, but it is a marriage. And has been for years and years and years. But to answer your question, I have to work through what marriage means — and the first thing in my mind goes to is that marriage is for the procreation of the race. It’s a sacrament to unite people so that they can begin a family and have children. But Hal Holbrook and I got married at an age past when we can expect to have children. So here I am in a very happy marriage that I think is fine. So if I feel that way about my marriage to Hal, why would I have a problem with a gay marriage? Still, it’s hard for me. I’m very traditional.

MW: Another issue that’s been raised recently in a big way is called “reparative therapy,” where gay people are saying they’ve been cured through various ministries led by the right wing.

I think the word cure is insulting, isn’t it?

MW: Yes. And of course the danger is that it suggests homosexuality is a disease, which it’s not.

Tell me, are these people who are “cured,” are they ever going to be happy?

MW: It’s hard to say.

Well, down the line, it will be discovered whether or not they will be happy. I hate to use this corny expression, but everybody has got to find out who they are and what their needs are. And putting yourself in a straight jacket for appearance’s sake is not going to get it. But as I’ve said, I’m old-fashioned. I’m still trying to work through [the idea of] women preachers. I am a person for whom change is difficult. I don’t agree with the way that children are brought up now for the most part. I can’t bear to see them in those little tennis shoes they put on children. Please. And those vile colors. I just want to see little babies in white. I want to see them in pastels. I don’t want to see little children in red and black. You know? I don’t want to see them in those orange and black things that they wear. I feel like such an anachronistic person, but I am slowly coming around — my children are slowly getting me close to where I should be. Maybe by the turn of the century, I’ll be up with everybody else.

Well, Dixie sounds like she was the kind of conservative, if not just person in general, we could use more of in this world — the thoughtful kind. So, thank you.

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