The tiny town of Plains, Georgia is one of those off the beaten track towns that takes a little planning to get to. Surrounded by peanut fields, this is the hometown of Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States.
Virtually every building in the picturesque South Georgia town center is a monument to the local boy, made good. On any given day, curious visitors make their way there to learn about the peanut farmer who became president.
Since Carter’s announcement in early August that he has advanced cancer, the numbers of those coming to visit have increased dramatically. Plains residents take it in stride and are very protective of the man many simply call “Jimmy.” They are quick to share anecdotes about him, but won’t spill much about his health. Even though Carter is known across the globe, he is, after all, one of them.
The former president grew up here and his family roots in Plains date back to the early 1800s. There are less than 800 residents. Carter, his wife Rosalynn, and numerous relatives are among them. This was the haven they returned to after their years in Washington. This is where they come to after each trip abroad to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, monitor elections in other countries or work on eradication of diseases. Plains was and is home.
The business section of Plains itself consists of not much more than a few historic buildings. There’s no stoplight; just a flashing light right as you hit the business area off Highway 280. It’s still very much a farm community. Everything is within walking distance.
Just a block off the highway is Plains High School where Carter was once a student. It is now the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and is run by the National Park Service. Rangers are intimately acquainted with the Carters, who often attend events there. Any visit is sure to garner personal stories about them or their Secret Service agents. Some of those agents are actually the children of the original Secret Service detail which moved to Plains when the Carters moved back in 1981.
The building that once housed the family’s Carter Peanut Warehouse is now a gift shop selling Carter memorabilia, local jams, jellies, fudge, and yes, peanuts. President Carter’s election headquarters was originally the Plains train depot. It now houses a pictorial timeline of his life that you can browse or you can watch a video that shows his campaign up through his presidency.
Jimmy Carter attributes much of his success to his deep faith in God and his roots in Plains. He continues to conduct regular Sunday Bible Study at Maranatha Baptist Church. The church shares his schedule in their site.
If you plan to attend, make sure to come early. Space is limited and all visitors are subjected to Secret Service screening before entering the church. The big payoff comes at the end of the regular church service which follows bible study. President and Mrs. Carter will pose for individual pictures for groups who wait around. President Carter has vowed to continue his classes as long as his health allows.
Plains is three hours south of Atlanta and just eight miles from Albany, Georgia.