Rock star among many flocking to Georgia to support Jimmy Carter

Reports from Plains indicate the 39th president is doing well despite entering home hospice care

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Nearly a week since Jimmy Carter entered hospice care, people from all over the US and around the world have descended on the former president's hometown of Plains, Georgia.

The tiny town, normally home to about 550 residents, has received an influx of visitors eager to pay their respects while Mr Carter sits in his home a short distance from the small strip of shops in Plains, and its other popular sites.

These include the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, the big peanut on the edge of town and Marantha Baptist Church, where Mr Carter taught Sunday School up until entering hospice.

"I think president Carter is going to surprise everyone," Carter family friend Jill Stuckey told The National.

Though she declined to comment on the specifics of his condition, Ms Stuckey said the 98-year-old former US leader was “doing quite well” and that he and his wife Rosalynn were "workaholics".

"They're the most dedicated and determined people that I have met in my entire life," Ms Stuckey said of her friends.

The National visits the home town of Jimmy Carter

The National visits the home town of Jimmy Carter

"Every single day, they eat right ... they exercise because they want to live as long as they possibly can to help as many people as they possibly can."

She also said that Mr Carter recently received a special guest.

“A couple of weeks ago, ambassador Andrew Young paid president Carter a visit,” Ms Stuckey said.It was so incredible to see the two of them together.”

Mr Young served as the US ambassador to the UN under the Carter administration in the 1970s.

She said that she recently was able to show the independent feature film Carterland to the former president.

The film is a result of two brothers Will and Jim Pattiz taking a closer look at what they thought was a misunderstood presidency.

“They were initially interested in his preservation of our national parks but then began to uncover so much more about his accomplishments that went overlooked — like climate change, the Panama Canal and so much more,” said Ms Stuckey.

“After he saw it he said, 'I want this played at my funeral,'” she said.

Ms Stuckey, who has had a decades-long relationship with the former president and first lady, is also the superintendent at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park where foot traffic is up as people trickle in to see where Mr Carter and his wife Rosalynn went to high school and to learn more about his legacy.

“Age has been kind to what president Carter did during his presidency and I am looking forward to the more historians taking another look at his presidency,” Ms Stuckey said.


Shops and restaurants are also taking advantage of the sudden deluge of visitors, with almost no room at any of the local inns.

The only lodging in Plains and the hotels in the neighbouring town of Americus are mostly booked with well-wishers making the pilgrimage to pay their final respects to the 39th American president, along with media outlets from all over the US.

“We have guests here from Los Angeles, New York and even a couple from Germany,” said the desk clerk at the historic Windsor Hotel in Americus. “They're all here because of president Carter.”

Eavesdrop on any conversation and you'll hear the name Jimmy Carter mentioned with great fondness.

Patricia Greene of Sparks, Georgia, made the trip not only due to memories of her late mother voting for Mr Carter in the Georgia governor race, but also for the president he was.

“He was a really good president that was actually about doing the job of trying to make everybody's lives better,” Ms Greene said, who, like the former president, served in the US Navy.

“His legacy means a lot to me because I am from Georgia and I respect him as a man and a humanitarian.”

Ms Greene said that there are certain leaders in the world that she teaches her grandchildren about, ones who furthered justice. She considers Mr Carter to be one such person.

An unnamed man told The National that he travelled from Hannibal, Missouri to Plains to honour the nation's oldest living president.

“My politics may not always line up with his, but my being here is testament that we, as Americans, can set aside differences and find common ground,” he said. “I don't even know where I am staying tonight, but I just knew I had to be here.”

Meanwhile, the Plains Trading Post, which claims to be the country's largest political memorabilia dealer, has recorded increased footfall and was doing brisk business on Saturday morning.

The shop's owner Philip Kurland said it currently has about 1,100 pieces dedicated to Jimmy Carter as well as countless other political figures.

“Somebody came in here and bought up $400 worth of stuff and I said to him, 'You must be rich,'” said Mr Kurland. “He had a bodyguard with him and everyone seemed to know who he was, but I didn't.”

It turned out to be Georgia native Michael Stipe, lead singer of the rock band R.E.M.

George Saratsiotis, owner of the George’s haberdashery in Americus, immigrated from Greece in the early 1970s.

“My first driver's licence has his name on it and I keep it as a souvenir,” said Mr Saratsiotis.

He added that on several occasions he had sold all sorts of attire to Mr Carter.

Mr Saratsiotis and his wife even received an invitation to the White House when Mr Carter awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Archbishop Iakovos, former primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in North and South America.

“It was unbelievable for me, I couldn’t believe it. I went from immigrant here and to the White House.”

When he showed his father the photos of himself at the White House, Mr Saratsiotis said, he cried.

Ms Stuckey said that she cannot imagine a world without her friend.

“This town will grieve for a very, very long time and it will be a unique time,” she said.

“So many people say he was a great ex-president,” she said. “I hope people will take the time to take a closer look at his many accomplishments.”

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Updated: February 27, 2023, 10:00 PM