President Jimmy Carter, left, sits with his wife,
Rosalynn, as they wait to pose for photos after Carter
taught Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church
in his hometown of Plains, Ga., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.
More than 700 people heard Carter deliver a familiar
message this weekend: When your burden grows heavy,
ask God for strength.
— Plains, Georgia, plans on giving back to their resident
globe-trotting former president by keeping him upbeat and
Carter and his hometown have always been intertwined, from
the day he announced he would run for president and an old
train depot downtown became a local campaign office. He and
his wife, Rosalynn, have always kept a home there, but the
90-year-old Carter intends to spend a lot more time in the
tiny town as he's treated for cancer that has spread to his
one-block business district specializes in Carter political
memorabilia and peanut souvenirs. Visitors stop by after
touring dozens of properties associated with the Nobel Peace
Prize winner and his extended family, including Carter's
boyhood farm and a gas station once run by his brother,
live just down the street, in a 1961 home they built before
he entered politics. It's now encircled by an iron fence
with a guard checkpoint, and locals know Secret Service
agents by name, along with their snack preferences.
and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, Plains is a
"haven" from their work in Atlanta and around the
globe, he has said. They both were born and grew up in the
area. They return here following each challenge, including
his 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan and his first radiation
treatment last Thursday.
determined to put a familiar grin on the 90-year-old
Carter's face ordered 500 green and blue yard signs and
fanned out to plant them in yards and along every route into
Plains. Signs declaring "Jimmy Carter For Cancer
Survivor," a slogan first shown in an editorial cartoon
in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, are in demand elsewhere
It was a
small gesture for the person who put Plains on the map and
has continued to think about the town's best interests, said
Jill Stuckey, a friend who hosts the Carters for dinner
person walks near dolls of former President Jimmy
Carter in a store in his hometown of Plains, Ga.,
Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, The one-block business
district specializes in Carter political memorabilia
and peanut souvenirs. Visitors stop by after touring
dozens of properties associated with the Nobel Peace
have always supported Plains, even down to (choosing) their
burial place here in Plains," Stuckey, 54, said.
"If in the future, you know, 20 years from now when
President and Mrs. Carter have passed — or 30 years —
they know that will be a draw for Plains."
residents, especially members of the church where Jimmy
Carter taught Sunday school this weekend, are as protective
of "Mr. Jimmy" and "Miss Rosalynn" as
they are proud of their town's representatives.
Williams, a friend of the Carters, manages the crowds eager
to see Carter teach at Maranatha Baptist Church. On Sunday,
she warned hundreds seated on benches inside the church that
they were not to offer a handshake when Carter sat for
photos following the service.
pre-lesson rules also had a new suggestion: Positive
don't say 'I'm so sorry you have cancer,'" she said.
"He already knows he has it. Let's be positive."
McNeill, right, of Valdosta, Ga., has her photo taken
by Melinda Groover, of Birmingham, Ala., as they visit
the hometown of former President Jimmy Carter in
Plains, Ga., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Carter’s 1976
election to the presidency made Plains a tourist
destination. The one-block business district
specializes in Carter political memorabilia and peanut
700 people heard Carter deliver a familiar message this
weekend: When your burden grows heavy, ask God for strength.
The demand prompted a hastily organized second class at a
nearby high school.
himself remains the biggest draw for Plains visitors. He
plans to continue teaching Sunday school at the small
Baptist church he and Rosalynn attend but church members say
they aren't certain whether Carter can continue doing
Judy Hargett recently retired and decided to drive to Plains
from their home in Florence, Alabama, on a hot and buggy
Saturday. The couple joined a steady stream of visitors
touring the family farm, where Carter helped in the family
store and fields.
Hargett said she's wanted to attend one of Carter's Sunday
School classes for years and didn't want to miss an
didn't know if the treatments would make him sick later and
he wouldn't be able to teach," she said. "I have
so much respect for President Carter. I still call him