‘Great man, great president’: Memories of Jimmy Carter

Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 12:31 PM EST
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ATLANTA - Since news broke that Jimmy Carter is in hospice care, well-wishers have been making pilgrimages to The Carter Center in Atlanta and other places with ties to the only native Georgian to serve in the White House.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum decided to open on Monday for people interested in learning about Carter’s legacy.

“Hearing about President Carter’s possibly final days, we thought something called us here,” said Keith Brown, who came to the museum Monday.

“I remember when he was governor and when he ran for president and he kind of came in from some hard times for our country and I was young then but I remember he seemed to do a good job. I was so proud of him being from Georgia,” said Brown.

Carter’s legacy is known around the world, specifically his efforts toward peace.


Emerson Tsui is an international relations student all the way from China who visited the museum Monday.

“His contribution matters a lot to build a world without conflict with more contributions to mutual understanding,” said Tsui.

“His humanitarian connection and inner kindness from a human being’s heart are something that should be remembered beyond the boundary of nationality, language, and culture,” said Tsui.

Brown said: “It’s unheard of these days, somebody that can just bring people together. Even the people around the world he brought together that nobody would be able to dream of these days.”

Among those paying homage over the weekend was his niece, who noted the 39th president’s years of service in an emotional address Sunday at Maranatha Baptist Church, where Carter taught Sunday school for decades.

“I just want to read one of Uncle Jimmy’s quotes,” Kim Fuller said, adding: “Oh, this is going to be really hard.”

She referenced this quote from Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. I’m free to choose that something. ... My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can.”

“Maybe if we think about it, maybe it’s time to pass the baton,” Fuller said before leading those gathered in prayer. “Who picks it up, I have no clue. I don’t know. Because this baton’s going to be a really big one.”

Carter, at age 98 the longest-lived American president, had a recent series of short hospital stays. The Carter Center said in a statement Saturday that he has now “decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.”

In Atlanta, people, some traveling many miles, made the trip to The Carter Center to reflect on the life of the former president on a spring-like Sunday under a sunny sky.

“I brought my sons down here today to pay respect for President Carter and teach them a little bit about how great a humanitarian he was, especially in the later stages of his life,” said James Culbertson, who drove an hour to Atlanta from Calhoun, Ga.

The presidential library was closed in honor of Presidents Day weekend, but people were still showing up to walk past the fountains and through the gardens.

David Brummett of Frederick County, Maryland, said he changed his Sunday morning plans when he heard news that Carter was in hospice care.

Brummett paused near a large statue of Carter, where someone had placed a potted plant of purple chrysanthemums at the base.

“Great man, great president, probably under-appreciated by those who didn’t know much about him,” Brummett said. “People should come here to appreciate the life, and the contributions he made both during his presidency and after.”

Margaret Seitter of Atlanta met Carter in the 1980s, when he spoke about foreign relations in one of her classes at Emory University. Seitter and her friend, Larry Goeser, visiting from Florida, were among those paying their respects at The Carter Center.

Both said they were inspired by Carter’s work with Habitat for Humanity, which he continued by helping to build houses well into his later life.

“Definitely want to go build a Habitat for Humanity house in his honor,” Seitter said.

Following Fuller’s Sunday school service at Maranatha Baptist Church, Pastor Hugh Deloach offered prayers for the Carter family, particularly for Rosalynn Carter, the wife of the former president.

The Carters have been married for more than 75 years, making American history as the longest-married presidential couple.

“Lord, especially Mrs. Carter, and God look back on times and years that they’ve been together and Lord just strengthen her in the power of your might as well,” the pastor said.