Jimmy Carter Celebrates Milestone Birthday

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Jimmy Carter Celebrates Milestone Birthday

By Leila Barrett Case

Congratulations and very happy birthday wishes to President Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, who celebrated his 97th birthday last Friday, October 1.

Carter the longest living U.S. president, observed the milestone birthday quietly at home with his wife Roselynn Carter and other family members, however, the occasion did not go unrecognized.

A motorcade limited to 25 vehicles of all descriptions – cars, golf carts, farm tractors and wagons – gaily decorated with “Happy Birthday” signs and colorful balloons drove by the Carter’s home on Woodland Drive. Carter, accompanied by Rosalynn, their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and secret service members and others, smiled his approval and waved back.

What a nice way to wish the Man from Plains a happy, happy birthday. A native of Sumter County he is a man of strong convictions who led the nation well during a critical time in the late 1970s. Since leaving office, neither he, nor Rosalynn, has been idle. He has accomplished a great deal in the past 40 years including building the Carter Center in Atlanta, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity International to build homes for families in need, written a number of books, traveled the world on various goodwill missions just to name a few.

Although his 97th birthday was celebrated quietly at home this year, there have been other birthdays that were extremely elegant. One of the most elaborate was when Carter turned 75. The year was 1999 and marked the reopening of the historic Rylander Theatre in downtown Americus. What an exciting night it was indeed.

The gala celebration was truly an appropriate way to recognize Carter and what better venue than the historic theatre that had been returned to its original splendor after a $3.5 million restoration effort by a public / private partnership.

The scene in front of the theatre looked like a Hollywood movie premiere and it was in a way. Klieg lights illuminated the nighttime sky as notables and other attendees from near and far began to arrive in chauffeur-driven, shiny black limousines that stopped at the theatre entrance where they were welcomed by theatre staff and ushered to their seats. All 600 seats on three levels, the tickets having been sold within days after the gala invitations arrived in mailboxes. It was indeed a grand event. There has been nothing to compare in Americus since.

Top entertainment from across the country was featured on stage. The event was primarily organized by pianist David Osborne of Las Vegas and a committee consisting of people from Americus and Plains. Among the entertainers were Osborne, singer Pat Boone, country music star Lynn Anderson, the Indigo Girls. The McGuire Sisters and a dozen other distinguished celebrities from television and the silver screen. Because the tribute to Carter was a sellout, the show was telecast live from the theatre through closed circuit television projected on a widescreen on the exterior brick wall of the Habitat for Humanity International Headquarters building parking lot, located in the same block as the theatre.

After the final curtain, everyone walked across the street where Carter used his Naval Academy sabre to cut the first slice of his birthday cake. The gigantic confection was baked and beautifully decorated by Winn-Dixie Supermarkets, who donated it for the special occasion.

The merriment continued at a beautiful reception at the Windsor Hotel where the Carters mingled with everyone. The reception was organized by the late Gail Hooks and Alice Argo of Americus and their committee and feature floral arrangements and delicious food prepared by the hotel’s chef and staff.

What an unforgettable birthday party for Carter. There have been others over the years including concerts by pianist David Osborne, and dinner parties but none like his 75 birthday, October 1, 1999.

And I won’t ever forget it. And I’m sure neither will Carter.

Happy 97th birthday Mr. Carter…

Americus Times-Recorder, October 6, 2021, page A4

Visit the Americus Times-Recorder’s coverage of Jimmy Carter’s life and impact for more information.