President Carter plans to spend the rest of his days in Plains

Plains, Ga., is home to Jimmy Carter, and it’s where he plans to spend the rest of his days, outside the walls of a hospital and inside the arms of loved ones.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:25 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2023 at 11:06 PM EST
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PLAINS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - President Jimmy Carter is spending his last days in hospice care at home with his family, after several hospital stays.

Family members say, he’s at peace, and surrounded by love, at the home where he and his wife Rosalyn have lived since 1960 in a tiny rural south Georgia town.

Even at night, the small town of Plains, Georgia looks very presidential there’s no mistaking this is Carter’s hometown over at the museum which used to be his high school you can learn all about the Carter’s early years from the newspaper headlines to the presidential desk here’s a Nobel peace prize even a Grammy.

We found Leanne Smith here- sharing stories about her famous aunt and uncle.

“He’s done so much for us here in Plains. it’s hard to imagine planes without him,” Smith says.


And she gave us a glimpse of family life for the Carters right now.

“My mom and I yesterday took some food up there for Chip, Amy and Jack. They were all up there. We didn’t see them they were resting which is what you do at this time in your life,” Smith says.

She delivered that food to the first and only home the Carters have owned, since 1961. It is a humble legacy.

“What happens now who carries on the legacy then you have this moment and you think we have to,” Smith says.

And that may be president Carter’s most lasting legacy of all, inspiring people to volunteer and give back. The way he did.

We went to Plains and spoke with a presidential historian there Monday.

Plains is such a small town. But it’s overrun with people. Lots of news media to be sure, but others who just wanted to be here on this Presidents Day.

We ran into a long-time friend of Carter’s, Larry Cook, a presidential historian. He was scheduled to speak here even before the announcement about hospice care. We asked him how a town like this produced a president.

“Yeah, exactly. It’s a small town. A lot of people say that. You’ll say how did the president come from a little place like Plaines? But when you study the history of President Carter, do you wonder how could he not come from a place like this? Because he had such influences were standing in his high school,” Cook says.

We know teachers can have a huge influence on their students and Carter’s teacher reminded the class: You know, one day one of you could become president.

Hang around here long enough and you’ll run into a relative.

Smith says, “He was like he could come home and go back to the house they built in 1961 the first time they built and get away from everything. People respected the privacy. They got it when they came home, and even the part he’s going to be buried here. He could’ve been buried at Arlington.”

And as we all know now, Carter is choosing to live out his final days here and one day will be buried here.

Most every conversation about Carter usually finds its way back to his faith. We went to the small church where the Carters worshiped and where Carter taught Sunday school for years.

But first a legacy of peace, activism love, and light, we are reflecting on Carter’s life well severed as he enters hospice care. But no matter where you go here in Plains, no matter whom you talk to about Carter, the conversation always circles back to his faith.

Do you want to know what’s been driving Carter all these years? Look no further than the small Baptist church on the outside of town. Zack Steel says people would come here from all over the world to hear a former president teach Sunday school.

“And if you stayed for Sunday school as well as Sunday service, he and his wife would pose for pictures 30 to 45 minutes just to make sure everyone had the opportunity to meet with him as well,” Steel says.

Carter’s faith is no secret. It’s written plainly for all to see on the wall of his former school that became his museum. “My faith demands that I do whatever I can whenever I can for as long as I can with whatever I have ... to try and make a difference.”

Smith saw it all for herself.

Presidential historian Murray Smith also understands the source of Carter’s strength.

“I think he stays true to himself, because of his faith. He lives his faith and you know that’s him and kept him centered there,” he says.

Back at the church, Zak Steele shows us one of the offering plates Carter carved by hand. The initials of our 39th president are right there on the bottom. He even made the wooden cross you see hanging there. And Carter’s final lesson here?

“His last Sunday school lesson was on Nov. 3, 2019, when he talked about not being afraid of death. He knew where his eternal place was. But little did we know. That was going to be his last Sunday school lesson.”

On those special weekends when Jimmy Carter would teach Sunday school, as many as 500 people would arrive to hear him teach. That’s more than the population in Plains.