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Governor Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn meet Elvis Presley in Atlanta, June 29, 1973. Upon hearing of the death of Presley in 1977, Carter released a statement in which he said, “His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture.” (ABC News & Getty)

Ah, Jimmy, I Will Miss You Terribly

I am a Georgia native and watched Jimmy’s political career with strong interest, starting in my high school years. I really kinda grew up with him. We also share the same birthday!

I was actually living in Okinawa, Japan, during most of his term in office, coming home to vote in the 1980 election. Since he lost and my vote would never had been missed in Georgia, it spurred me on to stop voting for 20 years!

What I do remember during his presidency was that I was angry. They made fun of his jeans in D.C., but Reagan, the cowboy actor, was later loved for his denim-clad ruggedness. They called him a peanut farmer, discarding his education, marvelous intelligence, and actual work experience. Being called Jimmy instead of James also leaves openings for scorn as my very southern husband, Tommy, can attest. (Mainers just call him Tom, no matter what we tell them.)

Jimmy inherited the ravages of an earlier recession. He ran smack into an energy crisis, one that should have led to massive changes but didn’t, leaving me to claim that the oil industry runs this country. Then Iran waited until after Reagan took office to release the hostages on purpose – just as I thought at the time. (CIA, 2017) Too many things Jimmy couldn’t control. Too many things that simply put him out of office, deserved or not.

Reagan is now the Republican dream president – a man who I hated from the start, who probably had cognitive issues while still in office and truly started this nation and Republicans down the path of making the poor less than human. Finally, Jimmy is getting a new look-back and an outpouring of love. How will time treat the two a hundred years from now? I have to believe Jimmy will shine.

After I returned to Georgia in 1980, I bought an old house and wanted to upgrade the heating system. I actually got an estimate for solar – if Jimmy could install panels on the White House, so could I. It pains me to no end that 52 years later solar is just beginning to become a real possibility. If only …

Out of office, Jimmy became the best ex-president ever. His Christian principles and behavior never bothered me, the Buddhist. He has been a rarity in the US, a Christian who lived his beliefs instead of just proclaiming them. I honor him for that.

I honor him for how he maneuvered himself all the way to the presidency. I remember when he first ran for governor of Georgia. He ran as himself. To say the least, that did not work in 1966. He then ran “politically smart” in 1970 – he became less someone I admired but was more appealing to the Georgia electorate. I was not happy at the time that he had so obviously pivoted just to get into the office (but then again, my idealism also led me to vote for Shirley Chisholm in my first presidential election!).

A couple of years ago, I read His Very Best, Jimmy Carter, a Life by Jonathan Alter. I’m not much for biographies and usually no longer buy books, but I actually bought that one (e-book)! Instead of relying on just my younger memory, I was introduced to the man I had always admired. I found the push/pull of civil rights to be compelling – he was an ambitious man of his times, not the crusader I wish he was. It’s a book worth reading by the way.

He has been one of the most dismissed presidents of all time – my husband has always disliked him and has jeered at me for my loyalty. He’s not jeering now. I mean, comparing Jimmy to the orange cheeto really makes a person reevaluate his beliefs. Too many only know him as the great ex-president now. Less than 20% of the U.S. population are old enough to have voted in the 1976 election. The other 80% just don’t have these memories.

My mother, a nasty piece of work, lived to be 101, dying last November. Jimmy should never die. I guess he will live on, tucked away in my Georgian’s memory bank. Thanks, Jimmy, for all the memories, for starting my political life, for being just the good man you are. You will be forever missed.