Plains, Georgia welcomes the First Lady home

PLAINS, Ga. – Former first lady Rosalynn Carter will be honored by her loved ones and laid to rest Wednesday in her longtime home of Plains, Georgia.

Rosalynn Carter will be honored in a service at Maranatha Baptist Church, where Jimmy Carter and the former first lady celebrated their service. She is interned in the Carter family home in Plains.

Amber Roessner, a professor at the University of Tennessee who has written extensively about the Carters, previously told USA TODAY, “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of Plains.”

“It was not only their home, but also a nourishing and restorative place where they could find themselves in these key moments in their lives,” said Roessner.

The funeral comes a day after Carter’s memorial service in Atlanta, which was attended by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other former first ladies: Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.

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Mourners arrive in Plains

The rural town of Plains, Georgia, population 600, was in turmoil with police, volunteers and news reporters early Wednesday ahead of former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s funeral.

Traffic cones and metal barriers lined streets throughout downtown Plains and those leading to Maranatha Baptist Church, where a service for family and friends is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m

The mourners arrived at the church around 8:30 a.m. They were picked up by charter buses from the Welcome Center in Plains.

The farming town’s main streets will be closed before the service and final farewell on Main Street, where people can watch Rosalynn Carter’s motorcade drive from the church to the Carter Home and Garden, part of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park.

Rosalynn Carter will be buried in front of the modest ranch-style home she shared with Jimmy Carter since it was built in 1961.

The Carters have been a fixture at the church since they returned to Plains after leaving the White House in 1981. Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School classes attracted visitors from all over the country, and Rosalynn Carter, a deaconess who also taught Sunday School, helped found the church food drive, which now feeds hundreds of families each month. The former first lady continued to attend the charity event well into her 90s.

“What a remarkable woman she was.”

At Tuesday’s service, Rosalynn Carter’s family, friends and colleagues honored her decades of commitment to global humanitarian work. They celebrated her fight for mental health care and her commitment to women’s rights around the world. The former first lady’s family also highlighted her work at the Carter Center as she championed peace efforts, health programs and more.

Rosalynn Carter’s longtime collaborator and friend Kathryn Cade told the audience at the memorial, “What a remarkable woman she was: wife, mother, business leader, political strategist, diplomat, lawyer, author.” But what I remember most about her was is her tireless commitment to caring for others.”

Speakers also shared personal memories of the former first lady. Jason Carter, the Carters’ grandson, told the audience at the service that his family had recently been thinking about flying together.

As they sat on the plane, Jason Carter said, “My grandmother pulled out this Tupperware of pimento cheese and this loaf of bread and just started making sandwiches.”

“She gave it to all of our grandchildren, and then she just started giving it to other people on the plane,” Carter added. “And people were sitting there saying, ‘Rosalynn Carter just made me that sandwich, you know?’ They couldn’t believe it, but she loved people.”

A guest watches the program before a tribute to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on November 28, 2023 in Atlanta.  The funeral service is scheduled for the next day in Plains, Georgia, at the church where former President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school.  She will be buried in a private ceremony at her home.

“It’s hard when you know them”

In Plains on Tuesday, residents and guests prepared to welcome the former first lady, humanitarian and activist into their home.

In the auditorium of Plains High School, where Rosalynn Carter graduated as valedictorian of 1944, about a dozen people – mostly National Park Service employees – watched the memorial service for the former first lady. After each speaker, they clapped along with the crowd in Atlanta.

Joan and Dave Vogt watched the service honoring Rosalynn Carter in the auditorium on Tuesday. En route from Illinois to Sarasota, Florida, they stopped in the Carters’ hometown for a family vacation. “It felt very intimate,” Joan Vogt said as she attended the former first lady’s high school and watched the memorial service. She once met Rosalynn Carter on the campus of Goshen College, a liberal arts college in Indiana. Rosalynn Carter was there, campaigning for her husband, who was running for president at the time.

Elsewhere in Plains, Ramona Kurland said she has known the former first lady and former president for about 30 years through the political memorabilia store she runs with her husband in the Georgia town. As she greeted customers, she watched a livestream of Rosalynn Carter’s memorial service on her phone. She pointed to each member of the Carter family that appeared on the screen. She wiped her cheek after a speech by James “Chip” Carter. “It’s hard when you know them,” she said.