By David Spunt
Published: April 22, 2009
PLAINS, GA—He was our 39th U.S. President, and he grew up in the Chattahoochee Valley.
President Jimmy Carter has seen and done many things in his life, but his roots go back to the small town of Plains, where his life began
We wanted to share some stories about President Carter that maybe you didn’t know.
“My ancestors moved here before the civil war so our roots are deep in Plains,” Carter said.
James Earl Carter Jr. was the first United States President to be born in a hospital. Just four years after he was born, his family moved into a quiet, country home in Archery, Georgia.
It’s a place where President Carter says he first developed his love for helping people, starting with his dad.
“He had forgotten to get the key to the front door so he took me to the front porch and he raised the window up long enough for me (a tiny kid) to slip in, so I had to go inside and open the door for my father, so that was a big event in my life to be helpful to my daddy,” he said.
Growing up he spent many hot days on the fields of Sumter County, he says it was a time to enjoy nature and appreciate its beauty.
The seeds of learning began on these fields and continued in the classrooms of Plains High School.
“During the great depression there was no money and my only chance to go to college was to go to one of the two free universities which was West Point and Annapolis, so from time to time when I was a little boy, I just wanted to be in the Navy,” he said.
It was during his time in the navy that President Carter realized he had the ability to lead.
“I anticipated staying in the navy if I ever got there which I did and stay there 30 years and move away in the Navy and retire maybe somewhere in Hawaii or around Annapolis Maryland, but I never dreamed about coming back to plains, and I certainly never dreamed about being in politics,” he said.
Following his time in the Navy, President Carter and his young wife Rosalynn moved back to Plains. When they came back, he says times were tough and money was tight.
“The first year I was home our total income was $280 for 12 months and then we made a little bit better later on, and then we were able to rent the haunted house which was a nice house,” he said.
That’s right! Before the White House, he once lived a haunted house, known by locals for its ghostly encounters.
“There were things that we heard in the house and it was a common belief that if you stayed in the front room of the house in a bedroom, that there was no way you could keep the sheets and blankets on you all night, something would pull the sheets and blankets off,” he said.
It was during these years when he learned some life lessons, like raising his young family on a tight budget and developing grass roots support for his future career in politics.
Even when his political career hit its highest point, President Carter says he remained grounded, thanks to the values he learned in his hometown and on those rural Georgia fields.
“When we left the Navy we didn’t have to argue about where to go, we naturally came back to Plains. When I left the Governor’s office we naturally came back to Plains. When I left the Presidency, I could have done anything I wanted to, but we came back to Plains,” he said.
This is why we still see him in Plains to this day.
“Our kinfolks were here, our church was here. Our farms were here and our friends were here. We always felt this was a haven for us,” he said.