The election of Plains native Jimmy Carter to the U.S. presidency in 1976 brought members of his immediate and extended family into the public eye. Carter is the oldest of four children born to Earl Carter and Lillian Gordy Carter, as well as the husband of Rosalynn Carter, with whom he has four children.
Lillian Gordy Carter
Lillian Gordy Carter was born in Richland in 1898. Her father, James Jackson Gordy, instilled in his daughter a strong interest in social justice. She married Earl Carter in 1923 and made her home in Plains with him. During the first decades of their marriage, Lillian, a registered nurse, worked in a local hospital and often provided care without charge for patients who could not afford treatment, many of whom were African Americans. From 1955 to 1962 she was housemother to an Auburn University fraternity in Auburn, Alabama, and in her late sixties she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in India, from 1966 to 1968.
Known to the public as "Miss Lillian," the president's mother was politically active for decades before his election, helping her husband in his campaign for the state legislature, running the campaign office for U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson in Sumter County, and later making more than 600 speeches during her son's campaign for president. Outspoken on progressive issues in a time before many southern women were politically active, "Miss Lillian" was a role model for many, including her eldest son.
Lillian Carter received the Covenant of Peace award in 1977 from the Synagogue Council of America and was named honorary chair of the Peace Corps National Advisory Council in 1980. She died in Americus in 1983. In 2008 Jimmy Carter published a biography of her entitled A Remarkable Mother.
Carter entered politics in 1962 with his election to the Georgia senate. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1966 but four years later was elected to that office. In 1976 Carter entered the race for the U.S. presidency and won the election over Republican candidate Gerald R. Ford. Following his failed bid for reelection in 1980, Carter returned to Georgia, where he established the Carter Center in Atlanta and became a professor at Emory University. Hailed worldwide in the years after leaving the White House for his efforts to advance peace and democracy, Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He is also the author of numerous books, ranging in genre from political analysis to memoir to fiction,
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are the parents of four children: Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy. Although born in various places during Carter's time in the navy, all four children are graduates of Plains High School.
Jack's son, Jason, followed in his great-grandmother's footsteps by joining the Peace Corps. After completing a degree in political science at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, he was posted to Lesotho, South Africa, from 1998 to 2000. Upon his return, Jason attended law school at the University of Georgia and wrote a book, Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders, about his experience in the Peace Corps. In 2006 Jason and his wife, Katie, had their first child, Henry Lewis Carter, the first great-grandchild of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
Donnel Jeffrey Carter, known as Jeff, was born in New London, Connecticut, in 1952. He graduated with honors from George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., where he completed a degree in geography, and he is the cofounder of Computer Mapping Consultants, based in Kingwood, West Virginia. Jeff married Annette Jene Davis of Arlington in 1975. The couple has three children: Joshua Jeffrey (born in 1984), Jeremy Davis (born in 1987), and James Carlton (born in 1991). Jeff lives in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
Quoted by her father during his presidential campaign for her pro-disarmament stance on nuclear weapons and active in anti-apartheid demonstrations during college, Amy demonstrates an outspokenness reminiscent of her paternal grandmother's. She was elected in 1998 to the Board of Councilors at the Carter Center.
Gloria Carter Spann
Gloria Carter, the second child of Earl and Lillian Carter, was born in Plains in 1926. She married an air force captain, William Hardy, in 1945, and the couple had one son, William T. Carter Hardy, before divorcing in 1949. The son took the surname Spann after he was adopted by Walter G. Spann, whom Gloria married in 1950. Known for her love of traveling on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Gloria worked for a time as an art teacher and on the family farm in Plains. She died in 1990 of pancreatic cancer.
Ruth Carter Stapleton
Ruth Carter was born in 1929 and married veterinarian Robert T. Stapleton in 1948. The Stapletons had four children: Lynn, Scott, Patricia, and Michael. Living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Ruth became a well-known Christian evangelist and faith healer. She died in 1983 of pancreatic cancer.
Billy Carter and Sybil Carter, with Ken Estes, Billy: Billy Carter's Reflections on His Struggle with Fame, Alcoholism, and Cancer (Newport, R.I.: Edgehill, ).
Hugh Alton Carter, with Frances Spatz Leighton, Cousin Beedie and Cousin Hot: My Life with the Carter Family of Plains, Georgia (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978).
Jason Carter, Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa' s Borders (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2002).
Jimmy Carter, An Hour before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001).
Lillian Carter and Gloria Carter Spann, Away from Home: Letters to My Family (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977).
Rosalynn Carter, First Lady from Plains (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984).
William "Buddy" Carter, Billy Carter: A Journey through the Shadows (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1999).
Alan Coren, The Peanut Papers in Which Miz Lillian Writes (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978).
Richard Hyatt, The Carters of Plains (Huntsville, Ala.: Strode, 1977).
James Neyland, The Carter Family Scrapbook: An Intimate Close-up of America' s First Family (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1977).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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