Tom and I took three days last week to explore some of the national park sites in Georgia that we had not yet been to. We made a loop through southern Georgia, visiting Jimmy Carter, Andersonville, and Ocmulgee. We also visited Providence Canyon, which is a state park. This week I will take four posts to tell you about them.
We visited Jimmy Carter National Historic Site first. Although Jimmy Carter had a difficult time as President, I enjoyed learning about his life prior to his rise on the national stage. We started at the Plains High School Museum and Visitor Center. This is where Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Smith (and all the other white children in Plains) attended school. Georgia was heavily segregated when Jimmy Carter grew up here.
The museum does a good job of talking about Jimmy’s life. He went to the Naval Academy and became an engineer on submarines. He traveled the world with Rosalynn and expected to have a career in the military. When his father died, however, he decided he could make more of a difference in people’s lives by going back to Georgia and being a peanut farmer. He served on the Plains School Board and worked to integrate the schools. He worked for voting rights for all people. Looking back on that time he wrote, “Racial segregation was like a millstone around the necks of all Southerners. It held us down and it created schisms among our citizens that were mutually damaging.”
In 1962, Jimmy Carter ran for State Senator. He lost in the Democratic primary because of blatant and unapologetic stuffing of the ballot box. He proved blatant election fraud in court and won the election. Georgia law was changing at the time. Previously Georgia had doled out the number of votes per county limiting the number of people who could vote to white people. The Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional. Obviously, each person should be able to vote, and black people in Georgia went to the ballot box in record numbers.
Jimmy Carter became known as a person who listened to all people, regardless of their color. In 1971 he was elected as Georgia Governor. In 1977 he became President of the United States on a largely populist, grass-roots movement. I especially enjoyed the videos of the “Peanut Brigade:” the people who went from door to door campaigning for Jimmy. One woman told about going door to door during a blizzard in New Hampshire. Everyone was home. She didn’t know she should have been off the road because they don’t have blizzards in Georgia!
Jimmy Carter only served one term as President of the United States. Ronald Reagan defeated him. But since then, Jimmy and Rosalynn have worked tirelessly for peace and justice in the United States and in the world. They live in Plains where Jimmy teaches Sunday School most weeks at the Maranatha Baptist Church. Jimmy and Rosalynn pose for pictures with anyone who asks after church.
After exploring the museum, Tom and I headed to the Carter boyhood home, just down the road. Earl and Lillian Carter owned the farm from 1928 until 1949. The farm looks like it did when Jimmy grew up there. There are even a couple of mules outside the barn. A ranger was serving boiled peanuts and so I tried one. Salty!
Tom and I enjoyed our trip to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. We learned a lot about two people that I admire for what they have done in their lives beyond the White House. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are people of deep integrity who have dedicated their whole lives to God’s service. Despite being in their 90’s, they continue to work to further the Kingdom every day.