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Designing Women Star Dixie Carter Dies

Dixie Carter, Hal Holbrook Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Dixie Carter, the tough-love mother hen on Designing Women who became the mother-in-law from hell on Desperate Housewives, died Saturday morning at age 70. Her publicist says she died of complications from endometrial cancer, which affects the uterus.

"This has been a terrible blow to our family," husband and frequent costar Hal Holbrook said in a statement. "We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy."

Aside from playing the straight-shooting Julia Sugarbaker on CBS' Designing Women opposite Delta Burke, Annie Potts and Jean Smart, Carter appeared in such series as Family Law and Diff'rent Strokes and scored an Emmy nomination for a guest stint on Desperate Housewives as Marcia Cross' cantankerous mother-in-law, Gloria Hodge.

"Dixie Carter was a goddess," Potts said in a statement to E! News. "Beautiful and brainy, smart and funny, prim and sexy, wickedly talented and divinely sweet. The kind of wife and mother that every mother hopes their daughter will become and the kind of friend that is absolutely irreplaceable. She loved fiercely and was adored in return. To have known her a little was a delight to all. To have known her well, a treasure beyond reckoning. And now, a loss beyond measure."

Added Smart: "Dixie was such an amazing person. She was gorgeous, hilarious, incredibly talented and so devoted to her family. There was no one else like her and I was completely crazy about her. She exuded joy."

Meanwhile, Burke's rep said, "Delta is completely overwhelmed by the loss of Dixie," and declined further comment.

Carter was also an accomplished singer and Broadway star whose credits included Thoroughly Modern Millie, Pal Joey and Master Class.

She and Holbrook began dating after working together in the 1980 TV movie The Killing of Randy Webster and married four years later.

It was the third matrimonial go-round for both, and it proved enduring both off- and onscreen. He had a recurring role as her boyfriend on Designing Women and the two starred together in what was her final project, the 2009 film That Evening Sun.

(Originally published April 10, 2010, at 11:38 p.m. PT)


Dixie Carter joins the other dearly departed in the 2010 Fallen Stars gallery.