The epitomical "Southern belle," radiant with finesse, grace, and an aura of down-home hospitality, Tennessee-born actress and chanteuse Dixie Carter received her broadest exposure on television thanks to two memorable sitcom roles: that of TV exercise hostess Maggie McKinney, spunky romantic partner and wife of millionaire Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain), on Diff'rent Strokes, and that of Julia Sugarbaker, Atlanta fashion designer extraordinaire, on the long-running Thomason-produced sitcom Designing Women.
Carter was born in McLemoresville, TN, the daughter of two grocery-store proprietors. As a young lady, she projected a heightened gift for song. She studied music at Rhodes College in Memphis, then moved to Manhattan in 1963 to launch herself as a musical-theater star, but her career stalled for seven years given her 1967 marriage to Wall Street financier Arthur Carter (no blood relation to her; the common surname was a coincidence). Carter returned to the stage in 1974, with pivotal roles in such productions as Fathers and Sons and Pal Joey, and landed the part of Brandy Henderson in the soap opera The Edge of Night. In 1979, the actress moved to Los Angeles to commence film work. In the mean time, the marriage to Carter, and then a subsequent marriage, to Broadway star George Hearn, dissolved.