Background image: Main Street in Plains, Georgia, Jimmy Carter's home town.
Jimmy Carter legacy project
In February 2023, a day before I was to lead a Sunday prayer at my church in San Jose, it was announced that former President Jimmy Carter would enter home hospice care in Plains, Georgia. I thought I should include that in the Prayers of the People, and I did so saying, “We know Jimmy Carter as representing the best of what we can be.” So many people came up to me afterward to say how much that part of the prayer touched them that I knew I had struck a nerve. As a retired newspaper reporter, that experience told me Carter was someone they respected and would be interested in learning more about. So, in April, I traveled to Plains for three days to talk to as many people as I could about a man they knew as a neighbor as well as a president. I did more interviews after returning home. This page contains the newsletters that resulted. Soon I will be adding a main video plus videos of some of the key interviews I did during my research.
PLAINS, GEORGIA, as of the 2020 census, is a tiny settlement of 573 residents. There is no gas station or grocery store. No school. It’s 10 miles from the nearest Waffle House over in the county seat, Americus, population 16,230. In Georgia, that puts Plains in the wilderness.
“If you’ve got a dog laying in the road — if he can stay there all day asleep when the cars pass by — it's that quiet,” said Clara Chenault, whom I interviewed on the front porch of her double-wide mobile home just two blocks from the house of the Plains person whom you do know.
That guy is 98-year-old Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States of America, who announced in February that he was beginning hospice care in the four-bedroom, three-bath home where he lives with his wife, Rosalynn, at 209 Woodland Drive on the western edge of town.
JIMMY CARTER is a son of the South and of a Southern segregationist, James Earl Carter Sr.
His life’s journey ran from a white farmhouse to the White House. He traveled from a racist society through the Georgia governor’s mansion to a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort” to find peace, advance democracy and human rights, promote economic and social development.
Along the way, he chose paths — particularly regarding race — many of his contemporaries didn’t.
THE OFFICIAL website of the City of Plains lists eight churches for fewer than 600 people. Three of them are Baptist. In the 10 miles of Highway 280 that run through the forest and farmland separating Plains from Americus, there are four more churches, two of them
Five commercial radio stations broadcast from Sumter County, one owned by a local Baptist church, a second owned by the broadcast division of the American Family Association, whose vision is “to be a leading organization in biblical worldview training for cultural transformation,” and a third is a self-described “Christian-based radio station.”
If you visit among Jimmy Carter’s homeboys, yet don’t pick up on the pervasive religiosity of the local culture, you have visited the aquarium and missed the fish.
Thank you to these sources who took time to speak with me ...
Cindy Bagwell, assistant city clerk, Plains GA
Jason Berggren, associate professor, Georgia Southwestern University, Americus GA
Clara Chenault, Carter neighbor, Plains GA
Bren Dubay, director, Koinonia Farm, Sumter County GA
Bobby Fuse, retired public-school administrator, Americus GA
Lynton Earl “Boze” Godwin, Plains mayor
Rev. Dr. Moses William Howard Jr., retired pastor, Lawrenceville NJ
Rev. Dr. Lowery Brantley “Buck” Kinney, pastor, Plains Baptist Church
Evan Kutzler, associate professor, Georgia Southwestern University, Americus GA
Jim Livingston, executive director, River Valley Regional Commission, Columbus GA
Sam Mahone, Americus Civil Rights Museum and Interpretive Center, Atlanta GA
Jill Stuckey, superintendent, Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, Plains GA
Patricia Taft, former Plains mayor pro tem