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Cartwright received a bachelor of arts degree from Washington University (Saint Louis) in 1946. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Sigma Iota honorary societies at that school. He received from Yale University Divinity School the bachelor of divinity degree in 1948 and the master of sacred theology degree in 1950. Texas Christian University of Fort Worth, Texas, conferred an honorary doctor of divinity degree upon him in 1976.
An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cartwright served as a pastor to the following congregations: First Christian Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1950-1953; Pulaski Heights Christian Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1954-1963; Central Christian Church, Youngstown, Ohio, 1964-1970; South Hills Christian Church, Fort Worth, Texas, 1971-1979. He served as area minister for the Trinity-Brazos Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest, with offices in Fort Worth, from 1979 until his retirement in 1989.
Throughout his residence in Little Rock Cartwright became identified with racial issues which to his mind sought better human relations. On the Sunday following the historic Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision of May 17, 1954, he preached a sermon urging compliance. An extended excerpt of that sermon was printed in the Arkansas Gazette, thus putting Cartwright on public record in support of the desegregation of public schools.
As a response to the landmark Supreme Court decision, Cartwright in 1955 joined with other interested persons in forming the Arkansas Council on Human Relations with an office and full-time executive in Little Rock. Cartwright served as chairperson of the Council's first search committee for an executive director. He served on its board throughout his residence in Little Rock and was its president in 1956 and 1957. He also served on the board of the Southern Regional Council (Atlanta, Georgia) from 1958-1963.
Cartwright chaired the committee to unite separate black and white ministerial associations into the Little Rock Ministerial Association (Interdenominational) and served as its president in 1962. He was a delegate to the National Conference on Religion and Race, held in Chicago in 1963, and joined with others in Little Rock that same year to form the Little Rock Conference on Religion and Race. This organization was an interfaith group involving Catholics, Jews and Protestants. Through this organization Cartwright joined with a Catholic priest in speaking engagements across Arkansas. Cartwright also served on the executive committee of the Arkansas Council of Churches (offices in Little Rock) from 1958-1963.
Following the racially tumultuous years of 1957-1958 in Little Rock, Cartwright participated in an informal coalition of interested persons convened by Thelma Babbit of the American Friends Service Committee to work for what was commonly termed "Community Unity." Several pioneering interracial conferences were held at Camp Aldersgate, affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Cartwright served throughout those years on that group's steering committee. Its work culminated in an effort to organize an on-going interracial organization in Little Rock for fostering a non-discriminating community. Cartwright was chosen to be the chief speaker at its launching on November 22, 1960.
Throughout his years of residence in Little Rock Cartwright reflected and reported on racial issues through his writing for publications. In September 1957 he became an accredited writer in Little Rock for his denominational magazine and for several months became a part of the working press--even as he continued his pastoral responsibilities. His articles in such publications as The Christian Century, Christianity and Crisis, Progressive, New South, and The Reporter were widely read and reprinted. They also resulted in invitations for him to speak on racial issues at various points across the United States.
In regard to the immediate issues and circumstances of racial turmoil in Little Rock Cartwright generally expressed his preference for working quietly within the community behind the scenes and through such organizations as the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. Through its auspices he convened sympathetic ministers and lay persons to make public statements in support of orderly desegregation; or to oppose thwarting state legislation. He sought to be a link of communication between blacks and whites.
Cartwright was the pastor of all-white Pulaski Heights Christian Church which was known both within the city and within its denomination for its "liberal" heritage. In late autumn of 1957 thirty-one of its 310 members left the church in protest against their minister's words from the pulpit and actions within the city relating to school desegregation. The church's official board thereupon extended to Cartwright a unanimous vote of confidence and the church proceeded on an extensive renovation program of its building. The stained glass windows of the new sanctuary were given anonymously in appreciation of the "the courage and conviction" of Cartwright.
Processed by Leon C. Miller, June 1990. Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.