A Farewell to Rosalynn Carter

Published 1:56 pm Thursday, November 30, 2023

A dark chill hung over Plains in the early morning, with Christmas lights as the only illumination for the downtown. An Everyman’s Bible lay on a table along the downtown strip, and a Santa peered out from a storefront window. In the Rosalynn Smith-Carter memorial garden, the rising sunlight caught the Monarchs in her sculpture, casting an orange glow that matched their wings. A large lighted Christmas tree stood before the downtown. In front of it stood a board, flanked by flowers and covered in pictures of Rosalynn Carter, forming a homage to a historic figure and personal friend of many in the town.
Once daylight descended, the downtown became increasingly busy as fire, EMS, Parks Service and a variety of other agencies were on standby to ensure the safety of the proceedings. By mid-morning, spectators had begun to arrive standing beside the temporary metal fences set up along the road. A local Boy Scout troop, Sumter Middle School students, and many others waited patiently for the proceedings to unfold. A few Westboro Baptist-style protestors with signs arrived, but they, like the lone vulture flying earlier, left after failing to secure the crowds’ attention. By then the sun was shining brightly, lighting the downtown and cutting through the previous chill.
Angela Foster, former senior administrative assistant at the Rosalynn Carter Institute, came to watch the procession. She shared her thoughts on what attributes of Rosalynn Carter would be remembered as her legacy.
“Her caring and warm spirit towards everybody in all walks of life. She cared for the veterans and people that are caregivers. She made all kinds of strides for people that have mental illness and the stigma against it.”
Laura Neuman, Senior Advisor for the Rule of Law Program at the Carter Institute, also spoke about Rosalynn Carter’s work in mental health.
“She was somebody who was well before her time in normalizing this issue. I think the mental health work is really going to be cornerstone to her legacy.”
The hearse arrived around 11, carrying Rosalynn Carter’s casket from her family home to the church. Motorcycles and black cars proceeded the procession, all flashing blue lights. The service was conducted in Maranatha, with at least one onlooker tuning in live via phone. When the service was concluded, the hearse returned downtown, stopping after they reached the high school.
Family members walked alongside the car carrying Rosalynn Carter’s casket, while secret service members marched behind it. Police officers, many from neighboring counties, lined the streets while standing at parade rest. The long line of black cars with flashing blue lights came to a crawl to keep pace with the family.
Several onlookers gave their reactions after the procession passed. Tenille Scroggins, a homeschool mom and GSW grad, was there with her three kids. She talked about what it felt like to witness the event.
“It was surreal. Even though she’s the first lady of the United States, she’s our first lady too and it’s such a bitter-sweet moment.”
Singer Reed Eliot was able to give a brief response.
“It was really sad.”
Struggling to give voice to his emotions, he added:
“It’s sad, but we know she’s in a better place.”
Boy scout Jake Eubanks gave his reactions.
“I thought it was really well done. Really respectful. I think everybody did a great job paying respects to who she was as a person.”
Brinson Brock, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Sumter County Middle School was there with his students, mentioning they had grown the flowers that were placed on Rosalynn Carter’s casket.
Dilan Amin, an 8th grader, gave his reaction to seeing the procession.
“It was sad, but I’m honored and proud to be given the opportunity to be here.”
Onlooker Tami Peavy-Owen commented on seeing the funeral procession pass the town decorated in Christmas lights.
“It’s her town doing what it does this time of year, and she’s telling it goodbye.”