A resident of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Mr. Carter boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a First Class passenger together with his wife Lucile Carter and their children Lucile and William. They held ticket no. 113760 (£120) and occupied cabins B-96 and 98. Also travelling were Mrs Carter's maid Auguste Serreplan, Mr Carter's manservant Alexander Cairns and, travelling in second class, Carter's chauffeur Charles Aldworth.
Lying in the forward hold of the Titanic, and listed on the cargo manifest, was Carter's 25 horsepower Renault automobile. It is listed as a case so perhaps the car was not fully assembled. He also brought with him two dogs: A King Charles Spaniel and an elderly Airedale Terrier. He would later claim $5000 for the car and respectively $100 and $200 for the dogs.
On the night of April 14th, the Carters joined an exclusive dinner party held in honour of Captain Smith in the À la Carte Restaurant. The host was George Widener and the party was attended by many notable first class passengers. Later, after the ladies had retired and Captain Smith had departed for the bridge, the men chatted and played cards in the smoking room.
After the collision the Carters joined some of the other prominent first class passengers as they waited for the boats to be prepared for lowering.
When William Carter had seen his family safely into Lifeboat 4 he joined Harry Widener and advised him to try for a boat before they were all gone. But Harry replied that he would rather take a chance and stick with the ship.
Widener might well have taken Carter's advice, for he lost his life while Mr Carter was eventually able to escape. At around 2 AM, he was standing near the officer's quarters. Collapsibles A and B remained lashed to the roof but boats C and D had been freed and were being loaded. At one point a group of men desperately tried to rush boat C. Purser Herbert McElroy fired his pistol and the culprits were removed. Loading with women and children progressed but eventually no more could be found and as the boat was released for lowering Carter and another man stepped in. The other passenger was Joseph Bruce Ismay.
William Carter arrived at the Carpathia ahead of his family and waited on the deck straining to see Lifeboat 4 which held his wife and two children. When it finally arrived William did not recognize his son under a big ladies' hat and called out for him. According to some sources, John Jacob Astor had placed the hat on the boy and explained that he was now a girl and should be allowed into the boat. Other sources suggest a more likely scenario, that it was his mother in response to second-in-command Steward George Dodd's order that no more men were to enter Lifeboat 4.
AfterlifeMr. Carter died in Florida on March 20th, 1940. He was buried in a huge mausoleum at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.