Two Journalists Walk Into a Reunion

Patricia Ann O’Brien and William Hodding Carter III were married Nov. 9 at the Walter Lippmann House in Cambridge, Mass. Ellen Goodman, a friend of the couple and a minister with Life Ministry, officiated.

The bride, 83, was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Knight Ridder and a reporter for The Chicago Sun-Times before retiring. She covered the political campaigns of Geraldine Ferraro and Gary Hart. She graduated from the University of Oregon and was a Freedom Forum fellow at Columbia.

Ms. O’Brien is the author of 12 books, including “The Dressmaker” (Anchor, 2013), which she wrote under the pseudonym Kate Alcott, and “I Know Just What You Mean” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), which she wrote with Ms. Goodman, the officiant.

She is a daughter of the late Anna G. O’Brien and the late Martin H. O’Brien who lived in Los Angeles. Her father owned O’Bie of California, a textile company in Los Angeles. Her mother was a stay-at-home parent.

The groom, 84, who goes by Hodding, was the spokesman and the assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1980. He served as the Knight professor of public affairs journalism at the University of Maryland and president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami. At various times during his career, he served as a reporter, anchor, political commentator and panelist for ABC, BBC, CBC, CNN, NBC and PBS, and he received four individual Emmy Awards for television documentaries on civil rights and foreign policy. He retired from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as professor of leadership and public policy. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton. He also served in the Marines, from 1957 to 1959, and was last stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., having achieved the rank of first lieutenant. While he was there, his first book, “The South Strikes Back,” was published by Doubleday.

From 1959 to 1965, Mr. Carter worked at The Delta Democrat-Times, a newspaper founded by his parents — the late Betty W. Carter and the late William Hodding Carter Jr., who also went by Hodding — in Greenville, Miss. The groom’s father won a Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for his editorials against racial segregation in the South. His parents last lived in New Orleans.

The couple’s first marriages ended in divorce. The bride was also a widow, and the groom a widower.

The lives of Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Carter overlapped for more than a half-century, including decades in Washington, but the two never socialized. This changed in October 2018 while they were both attending the 80th anniversary of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. The bride had been a Nieman fellow in 1974 and the groom in 1966.

“I fell in love with her instantly,” Mr. Carter said, laughing. “But it took her at least a couple of hours to fall in love with me.”

Soon after a long-distance relationship ensued, with Mr. Carter living in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Ms. O’Brien in Boston. “I was quite taken by him,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We were like two pieces of a puzzle that just seemed to fit perfectly.”

As it turned out, they had actually met once before, 40 years earlier, when Ms. O’Brien, then working for Knight Ridder, was assigned to do a feature story on Mr. Carter, who had been on television numerous times while serving under President Carter (no relation), especially during the Iranian hostage crisis.

Mr. Carter did not recall meeting Ms. O’Brien in 1979, but she never forgot him. “I thought he was incredibly handsome,” she said before enjoying a laugh of her own, “and really full of himself.”

But she appreciated him much more the second time around. “I thought he was extremely brilliant,” she said, “and he was still incredibly handsome.”

Mr. Carter made the first road trip, visiting Ms. O’Brien at her home in Brookline, Mass., a week after they had met. “I found her to be gorgeous,” he said, “but I cannot tell you how absurd this was for us to be falling in love like teenagers.”

When Mr. Carter first arrived at Ms. O’Brien’s home, he knocked on the door, and when she opened it, he momentarily froze. “I just stood there and didn’t know what to do,” he said, “so I kissed her.”

The couple were married at the Walter Lippmann House on the Harvard campus, on the very spot where they met, surrounded by 57 family members, including children, siblings, stepchildren and grandchildren.

“If this late life marriage sounds romantic, it is,” the bride said. “If it sounds easy, not so easy.”

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