What Jimmy Carter has meant to Georgia

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I didn’t live in Georgia back in 1976, and the odds are good that you didn’t either. The state’s population back then was five million, roughly half what it is today, and over the past 40 years many of that original five million have passed on. So most of us living in Georgia weren’t here to witness the election of Jimmy Carter as president of the United States.

Nor do we have a sense of its impact on the state.

But over the past quarter-century, I’ve run across a lot of Georgians who do remember that era, and they remember it intently. Some had worked as volunteers on the Carter presidential campaign; some even went to Washington to work in his administration. A few of my older, now-retired colleagues in the press covered Carter’s campaign and administration and loved to tell old war stories over a beer or two. And a lot of the people who have offered stories were just … people, witnessing it all from the sidelines.

But as I’ve heard those stories spun, one thing they all shared was a sense of deep wonderment and pride. Forty years ago, they didn’t really believe that Georgia — a backward, Deep South state that a few years earlier had embarrassed itself by electing the segregationist Lester Maddox as governor, a state famous at the time as the setting for “Deliverance” and its in-bred hillbillies — could somehow produce a president.

They didn’t believe that one of their own — a peanut farmer from South Georgia of all things — could accomplish such a feat. As a headline in the Atlanta Constitution put it, “Jimmy Who Is Running For What!?” More importantly, Georgians didn’t believe that the rest of the country would accept as president someone who talked like they did and prayed like they did, someone with a family back in Plains that would seem at home in the cast of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The curious sense of Southern inferiority that still pops up too often today and still causes this region to lower its sights had an almost crippling impact back then.

So before it could be anything else, Carter’s bid for the presidency was a triumph of the imagination. And it was a triumph of the imagination not just for Carter himself and those closest to him, but for the entire state.

Politics has changed a lot in the past 40 years. In the era of the Internet, email and cable TV news, it’s a lot easier for an obscure governor to break into the national consciousness. It’s also a lot easier to build a political and financial network of like-minded supporters that crosses state and regional lines. Today, candidates such as Scott Walker on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left have donors and supporters drawn from all over the country.

Back in the mid-’70s though, unknown candidates such as Carter had to rely much more heavily on their own home-state networks for donations, political expertise and volunteers. A lot was made about Carter’s “Peanut Brigade” of Georgia-based volunteers that invaded northern primary states, turning on the Southern charm on behalf of their candidate, but that was only the most visible aspect of a commitment by the state’s entire power structure to elect Carter to the White House.

And to the amazement of those involved, it succeeded. Carter won the Iowa caucuses; he won in New Hampshire. He won the Democratic nomination over better-known opponents, and in November of 1976 he won the presidency, becoming the first person from the Deep South ever to win that office.

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His presidency, of course, was not the success that he wished it to be, although I think a fair reading of history would conclude that whatever his failings, the man was flat-out snake-bit. Much of what happened during his four-year term was out of his control and would have been out of the control of anybody who held office at the time.

Such debates aside, though, I think it’s important that we give Carter credit for changing Georgia’s image of itself. Almost a century after newspaper editor Henry Grady started selling the concept of a “New South,” Carter’s election announced that the South had indeed risen again, with Atlanta as its capital. And that sense wasn’t just smoke and mirrors, it was real.

With Carter’s election, the state demonstrated that it had the talent, resources and grit to play on the national stage, and once that realization sunk in, confidence soared. Expectations lifted. Ambitions that had once seemed too lofty — such as winning the Olympics — suddenly looked attainable. Carter’s high standing internationally, heightened by his work through the Carter Center, also gave Atlanta and Georgia a profile that has made it more attractive to immigrants and to foreign business, and that reputation continues to produce benefits to this day.

In short, the kid from Plains helped bring the world to Georgia, and modern Georgia to the world, and it began with those eight humble yet assertive words:

“I’m Jimmy Carter, and I’m running for president.”

 

Reader Comments 0

702 comments
JackClemens
JackClemens

Wait, so Tennessee isn't the deep South? They had two presidents.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

For JAY BOOKMAN:

I just finished reading your editorial on Jimmy Carter, in today's paper version of the AJC, entitled, "The most important thing Carter's done for Georgia," and I think that it is a far better editorial than the one you published on this blog yesterday.  Either you, or an AJC editor, took out the lines below (maybe for space or maybe for content, but probably a combination of both reasons), and removing the following few words completely changed the bitter taste I had in my mouth after I read your initial column.  Before the below words were removed, I - like Moonbat Betty and Josef had expressed - read your words to be condescending of the Deep South. I had thought, at that time, "Bookman will never understand the soul of the South, since he is not a native Southerner.

However, when I read your column today in paper print, I thought that your words were outstanding, and they reminded me of the positive, but piercingly truthful, manner in which AJC publisher, editor, and columnist Ralph McGill used to write of the South, and of its people, in order to lead them, with maturity, to a true New South.  McGill was a native Southerner born in Western North Carolina, where my father was born and raised in N.C.  He began as a sports writer, as you began as a science writer, for the AJC, but he grew enormously and influenced the South's progress, and thereby America's progress, especially in race relations and in the acceptance of all Southerners of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I hope you will follow McGill's lead and keep growing in understanding the South and its people with greater depth.

It is good that the following words were removed before your column made the paper's publication as your Wednesday, August 19, 2015, column:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

". . . a state famous at the time as the setting for 'Deliverance' and its in-bred hillbillies."

". . . someone with a family back in Plains that would seem at home in the cast of 'The Beverly Hillbillies.' The curious sense of Southern inferiority that still pops up too often today and still causes this region to lower its sights had an almost crippling impact back then."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I was here in 1976, and I kept my Georgia DL from the period when Carter was guv.


Carter is a real person, trying to do good, unlike the Teflons we have had since then.

Peachs
Peachs

Carter may be the Shakespearean foil to Trump, the Falstaff of presidential theater, all at the expense of the southern image. You wonder why there are crooks in Washington, the dullest ,but most honest, president in our life time, set the stage for the Donald Trump we see today.  People would rather give blood to the Mafia than have to be bored to death by a president, fact of life. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Google on Wikipedia the biography of Carter's mother, "Miss Lillian," whose full name was Bessie Lillian Gordy Carter.  She was the half-first cousin of Berry Gordy, Sr. who was the father of MoTown creator, Berry Gordy, Jr. 

 The Carter family's values represents the best values in the South, imo:  Racial equality, public service, and courage.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I did not think that many people would bother to "hit"' a link to read the biography of Jimmy Carter's mother, but her life's story is well worth the read.  Please take a few minutes to read of the outstanding values of "Miss Lillian" of Plains, Georgia, below:  (Source:  Wikipedia)  Imo, the Carter family represents the best of the South.

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"Bessie Lillian Gordy Carter (August 15, 1898 – October 30, 1983) was the mother of former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. She is also known for contribution to nursing in her home state of Georgia and as a Peace Corps volunteer in India as well as writing two books during the Carter presidency.


Carter was born Bessie Lillian Gordy to James Jackson Gordy (1863–1948) and Mary Ida Nicholson (1871–1951) in Richland, Georgia in 1898. She is a half first-cousin of Berry Gordy, Sr., the father of Berry Gordy, Jr., who founded Motown records. She volunteered to serve as a nurse with the U.S. Army in 1917. . . .Lillian's family initially disapproved of her choice of a career in nursing, but she continued her training and became very successful, earning the respect of both the black and white communities. 'Miss Lillian,' as she was often known, allowed black people to enter her home through the front door, rather than through the back door as was the social norm, and would often have them in her living room for casual conversation just as she would a white neighbor. (This practice was extremely unusual in the days of Jim Crow.)


Lillian Carter said that the strongest influence on her liberal views was her father. James Jackson Gordy, "Jim Jack" operated a Post Office in Lillian's hometown of Richland and was always cordial and often dined with the black workers. This was very unusual in the early 20th century but Lillian decided that she would follow her father's example.

She met businessman James Earl Carter and married him immediately after her graduation. The couple had four children with U.S. President Jimmy Carter being the eldest child born in 1924. Her other three children were also somewhat famous, Gloria (1926–1990), Ruth (1929–1983) and Billy (1937–1988). .  .

After the death of her husband from pancreatic cancer, Lillian Carter left for Auburn University where she worked for seven and a half years as a dormitory housemother. A year after completing her service at Auburn, Carter managed a nursing home in Blakely.

Lillian later became a social activist, working for desegregation and providing medical care to African-Americans in Plains, Georgia.


In 1966, at the age of 68, Carter applied for the Peace Corps. After completing a psychiatric evaluation, she received three months of training and was sent to India where she worked at the Godrej Colony 30 miles (48 km) from Mumbai. Lillian worked in the Godrej Colony for 21 months, during which she aided patients afflicted by leprosy. Emory University established the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing in honor of the work she did in India. The Atlanta Regional Office of the Peace Corps has named an award in her honor for volunteers over 50 who make the biggest contribution. . . ."


DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

“There’s been people prosecuted for mishandling classified documents that were not marked classified,”

Let's add a name to that list!

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany they keep putting this up with General Petraeus.  I can't figure the motivation of Hilliary and just write Petraeus off as one more middle aged goofball married to a fat wife.  I think for every Petraeus they catch there are three that get away with it.  Look at the speakers of the house that have compromised themselves but it never comes to light except for unusual circumstances, most outside their little affairs.  Just don't see Hiliary's advantage in all of this like i can these other horny, give it up for love, guys.  

TBS
TBS

GH

I hope it does

As I have been saying Hillary is nothing close to be anything more than mediocre imo

Repubs in the general election have much more to worry about than Hillary

It's themselves but we shall see

Peachs
Peachs

@TBS they try to play the polls and twist their message to fit a bunch of nuts' thinking, and when it suddenly changes they are sitting there with egg on their face, labeled with ideas they really don't believe in but were just trying to get alone.. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@TBS

but but TBS, we have No Other Credible or Qualified Cannidatez! We all gone DAHHH if Hils isn't nominated.

Haven't you heard?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@DownInAlbany @Visual_Cortex @TBS

Realize that it's popular to imagine that a former Senator and Navy Secretary, AND a former two-term governor aren't also officially in the race, but whatevs.

Heading upstairs.

Peachs
Peachs

Kennedy left the door open for Jimmy when he dumped Mary Jo Kopechne in the  Poucha Pond inlet, and JC woke up president.  Georgia was a better place back then, we are lackeys to a think tank in Washington now, no longer our own men.  We have a huge void in leadership and I have been here 65 years, never seen this state so weak. 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

Given the latest news on Hillary’s server in a bathroom, her campaign’s now officially circling the drain.

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

@TBS One scandal at a time.  The Clinton cash scandal will come up again in the campaign, if she doesn't drop out that is.

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany it is like the two guys running from the bear, Downs, one puts on his tennis shoes and the other says you really think you can out run that bear?  The reply was I only have to outrun you.  In content Hilary ain't got much competition and like the old Louisiana governor once said, "unless I get caught with a 12 years old boy in bed", I got the race won. You guys can't run a national election...

TBS
TBS

I thought the Clinton Cash book sealed her fate?

Maybe the sequel will be straw that breaks the camel's back

Is that book even being talked about any longer within right wing circles?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Peachs @DownInAlbany

 "unless I get caught with a 12 years old boy in bed"

Pretty sure the line is, or was anyway, "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."

TBS
TBS

Well if Doom didn't see it then it couldn't have happened

End of story

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

"'What, like with a cloth or something?' Clinton chuckled? 'Well, no. I don't know how it works digitally at all.'"

I'm just a little ol' grandma from Chapaqua.  I don't know how all this tech stuff works.  They tell me all my emails are safely stored on a server, whatever that is, in a bathroom closet in Denver, and that's all I know.  It was just cookie recipes and stuff about Chelsea's wedding anyway.  What's all the fuss about?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@_GodlessHeathen_

I'd put the percentage of users who have more than a passing knowledge of what happens when they hit "delete" at the low single digits.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Is it the beginning of the end for online comments?

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-33963436

some thoughts from a couple of the baby-sitters themselves.


To have comments, you have to be very active, and if you're not incredibly active, what ends up happening is a mob can shout down all the other people on your site. In an environment that isn't heavily curated it becomes about silencing voices and not about opening up voices.


I think 75% of the time they're more trouble than they're worth, and for us it's still a lot of work to keep up on.


As much fun as folks like us have had over the years, such vent outlets won't really be missed by about 90+% of online readership, who either don't participate in such threads, and at most give them a lurk now and then (and probably assume the very worst of the rest of the readership as a result).

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@Visual_Cortex  CBS News, they are like the FOX news for the left. These are the same folks that brought you the manufactured GWB letters. No doubt Hillary and her supporters are circling the wagons and it is getting quite bad for her. I watched reaction this morning on MSNBC and not one of the commentators were defending Hillary.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@InTheMiddle2 @Visual_Cortex

 it is getting quite bad for her.

Well sure, in brietbart/fox/drudge world.

Everywhere else, the first primary is hell and gone from now, and it's a bit silly to be writing off the leading Democratic primary candidate because of some recordkeeping compliance flap that the opposition has been screaming about.

 I watched reaction this morning on MSNBC 

yes, you and perhaps several hundred thousand political junkies who have a political soap opera to follow. Big whoop.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@Visual_Cortex @InTheMiddle2  Hiding your head in the sand pretending it never happened is not going to make I go away. The FBI will probably have the last word. You just need to look at her polling numbers to see a problem. She is down, Bernie is up and Biden continues to improve despite the fact he has not even said he will run.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@InTheMiddle2 @Visual_Cortex

 Hiding your head in the sand 

yeah, I hear that a lot. I'm IGNORING, I am, all the incredibly incriminating, potentially felony-caliber stuff you lot are constantly on about! 

oh, and 

Bernie is up and Biden continues to improve

the mere fact that I and just about every left-leaner I know has hoped for credible primary challengers to Hils, and have said so over the past year? 

if only so she isn't perceived as being coronated next summer at the convention? 

I could post that a hundred times over the next month, and I'd still have to read stuff like that.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Doggone_GA

I think all anyone really needs to know is that the clown car guys aren't going to wind up changing our policy one whit.

That said, it was interesting to note that basically the entire Western Hemisphere has adopted this model. That I didn't know.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@Visual_Cortex @Doggone_GA  Of course they aren't...it would take a constitutional amendment.  And I found it interesting that despite the assertion it has never been tested by the Supreme Court...the piece says it has: "All those questions were eventually settled in the 1898 Supreme Court case United States v. Wong Kim Ark."

And yes, I too found it interesting that it's pretty much a "new world" model.

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@Visual_Cortex @Doggone_GA 

The following are among the nations repealing Birthright Citizenship in recent years:

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  • Australia (2007)
  • New Zealand (2005)
  • Ireland (2005)
  • France (1993)
  • India (1987)
  • Malta (1989)
  • UK (1983)
  • Portugal (1981)

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@Doggone_GA 

The reasons for installing birthrite citizenship no longer exist, and as we can see several other countries have repealed it for the same reasons we should too. 

Menace
Menace

@Doggone_GA @Yes_Jesus_Can @Visual_Cortex  The Statue of Liberty weeps when she reads some of the opinions expressed here.  Native Americans beginning deportation actions against 300 million who ancestors arrived here without invitations.

Cherokee51
Cherokee51

@Yes_Jesus_Can @Doggone_GA 

Seems like it's one of those things that makes the US 'exceptional' - which of course is one of the things that Obama gets criticized for; that is, not talking about how exceptional we are in every speech he makes.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Doggone_GA @Yes_Jesus_Can @Visual_Cortex

notice the USA is not on there.

nor are any countries in the western hemisphere, save Cuba and a couple of other small ones (Panama and... I couldn't ID the last one from the map of South America from memory.)

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Yes_Jesus_Can @Doggone_GA

 the same reasons we should too

to keep brown folks from being able to vote when they turn 18. Just like Jesus wants, right?

Yeah, having a more or less permanent underclass of non-citizens residing in the shadows of your country, generation after generation. It works out real well elsewhere, just ask!