Plains to the White House
In 1975 when Jimmy Carter began his race
for the Presidency, national attention was focused on
this small southern town. Plains, population 653, was a
beehive of activities with press and tourists in the
thousands crowding the streets.
5, 1976, Daybreak Plains, Georgia
“Excitement at the Jimmy Carter
Presidential Election Headquarters in the old Seaboard
Railroad Depot is at a high fever. This tiny town is
packed with thousands of people who have been up all
night celebrating Mr. Carter’s win. Fires burn in metal
drums along the street, three bands have played during
the night and a huge television screen mounted on a
building across from the depot has continuously flashed
the election returns. It is impossible to drive in
Plains; only residents that know back roads can get in
or out of town.
Pandemonium breaks out anew as a
motorcade from Atlanta arrives carrying Jimmy Carter,
the first person to be elected President from the Deep
South since the Civil War. As the sun rises over the
horizon, President-elect Jimmy Carter addresses this
tremendous crowd of supporters from the Railroad Depot
as their upturned faces shine with enthusiasm, warmth,
Today, Plains is, once again, a quiet, peaceful small
town (population 716) with business as usual and smaller numbers of
tourist visiting a President’s hometown hoping to get a glimpse of Jimmy
Carter and to see this little southern town where a young boy grew up to
become the 39th President of the United States.
The rural southern culture of Plains that
revolves around farming, church and school had a large
influence in molding Mr. Carter’s character and in
shaping his political policies.
For this reason, the Jimmy Carter
National Historic Site and Preservation District was
established to interpret the life and Presidency of
Jimmy Carter and to preserve the history of this small
rural southern town.
Plains High School (the official State
School of Georgia) is the visitor center and museum for
Carter National Historic Site,
which consist of 77 acres in Plains administered by the
U.S. Department of Interior. The restored school where
both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter attended is open daily
from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visitors can see films,
exhibits all depicting the history of Plains and the
39th President of the United States.
More than any President in recent years,
Jimmy Carter is closely identified with his hometown.
Americans marvel at how a man from such isolated,
small-town upbringing came to broaden his horizons to
eventually aspire to the highest office in the country.
Even his hometown people were surprised by his decision
to seek the Presidency.
“It was a little shocking that someone we
knew wanted to be the President. Why not?” said Mrs.
Maxine Reese, campaign manager at the Plains
Why not, indeed! The townspeople of
Plains rolled up their sleeves and eagerly set to work
to help elect their native son to the Presidency. The
Democratic National Committee was thrilled when the town
of Plains put on a covered dish campaign dinner that
raised one million dollars, the most ever raised at a
single fundraising event. Hometown support was obvious
when an eighteen-car passenger train dubbed the “Peanut
Express (Special),” departed from the Plains depot
filled to capacity with ecstatic passengers bound for
the 39th Presidential Inauguration.
Other points of interest include his
boyhood home on the outskirts of town, and the Carter’s