Experimental evidence for laser melting of graphite, by irradiation with 30ns pulses from a ruby laser, is presented. RBS-channeling analysis, Raman scattering and TEM measurements reveal that the surface of graphite melts at a threshold energy density of about 0.6 J/cm2. For laser pulse energy densities above 0.6 J/cm2, the melt front penetration depth increases nearly linearly with increasing energy density. An intense emission of carbon particles during and after irradiation is observed. The thickness of the carbon layer removed in this process also increases nearly linearly with increasing pulse fluence. A dramatic redistribution of ion implanted impurities is also observed. Furthermore, the crystalline structure of the resolidified material is shown to depend on the energy density of the laser pulse. In order to explain these phenomena, a model for laser melting of graphite at high temperatures to form liquid carbon has been developed in which a free electron gas approximation is used to describe the properties of liquid carbon. The model is solved numerically to give the time and depth dependences of the temperature as a function of the laser pulse energy density. Very good agreement is found between the observed melt depth dependence on laser pulse energy density, as determined by RBS-channeling, and the model calculations. The redistribution of ion implanted impurities and the modification of the crystalline structure, caused by the pulsed laser irradiation, are also consistent with the model and permit the determination, for the first time, of interfacial segregation coefficients for impurities in liquid carbon. The model also predicts that liquid carbon at low pressure (p < 1 kbar) has metallic properties.