McCarty was born in Plainfield, Ind. and attended Indiana University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in law. She graduated first in her class and was elected to serve as Indianapolis Editor of the Indiana Law Journal. In 1965, she served as an Indiana Deputy Attorney General. Following her term, she served as a member of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners from 1971-76.
In 1979, she was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Jimmy Carter, serving a full, four-year term. After serving as Attorney General, she was Chairman of the Board of the Indiana Department of Correction. She was a practicing attorney until her death in 2006.
Throughout her lifetime, McCarty received many awards and honors. She was the first winner of the Indiana State Bar Association Women Lawyers Committee Women in the Law Achievement Award in 1996. She was also the first to receive the Outstanding Alumna award from the Women’s Division of Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis in 2000.