Public Safety Leaders Talk About Massive Coordination Effort During Funeral Procession

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Sumter County Sherrif Eric Bryant gave an interview December 1rst expressing gratitude for the numerous agencies that worked together to make sure Rosalynn Carter’s funeral unfolded smoothly. Bryant mentioned State law enforcement, medical personnel, and public health all worked in tandem.

“I was just amazed and greatly appreciative of the support that they gave the city of Plains. I think Chief Johnson and I converged every day throughout this process and we were just amazed at the level of support from all involved.”

He also expressed appreciation for the cooperation of residents of Plains and Sumter at large.

“One of the things I can say also to the citizens, we understand that it may have inconvenienced some at times, but we definitely appreciated their spirit of cooperation as well when it came down to detours and road closures and things of that nature.”

In addition to talking about the proceedings, he also shared a memory of meeting Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter.

“The Carters actually invited me and at that time then Sherrif Smith to their home for a welcoming event when we took office. Matter of fact, I am looking at that photograph now to my left here in my office. That’s how they have always been, they’ve been very open and supportive and caring, not only for the public safety community but the leaders within public safety.”

Bryant also had memories of seeing the Carter’s when President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school.

“It was a regular scheduled event for personal here at the sheriff’s office to be in attendance there in Plains to assist with people and vehicle control.”

Bryant talked about the impression they left on him.

“They are very humbling and they are very friendly, very soft spirited people, very caring, and they always ask about how well you are doing individually as well as the agency and the state of the agency.”

County fire Chief Jerry Harmon talked about the safety efforts taken by numerous fire departments.

“I’m very pleased with the turnout and I’m very appreciative of all these departments and these fire chiefs and these counties allowing them to come down and assist us and be a part of this.”

Harmon estimated the number of departments.

“At one point we had about fifteen fire departments from around the State of Georgia that came in and assisted us with this project.”

He talked about what it was like for them to work in Plains.

“That Plains fire station is a one-man fire station, and at one point on Wednesday we probably had fifty fire firefighters over there being represented from departments all over the State of Georgia.”

In addition to the safety preparations, Chief Harmon talked about his reactions to seeing the funeral procession, mentioning the experience had given him chills.

“As we lined the street, we had some family members actually come over and shake our hand, as they were walking in the funeral procession.”

He also recounted a memory of meeting the Carters during a training exercise.

“I had President Carter and Miss Rosalynn actually come over to the training. They were very interested in it and what was going on, had lots of questions and I was able to sit down with them and explain to them what was going on, why we were doing what. That was definitely a thrill for me.”

Americus Police Chief Mark Scott talked about the role of the Americus police department during the proceedings.

“Our primary mission was to support the secret service and state patrol. We provided 24-hour security at Phoebe Sumter along with the secret service during the time that the First Lady was there. Our busiest day was Monday when the motorcade traveled through town. We had numerous off duty officers come in to help block intersections to make sure that the procession moved through town smoothly. The plans for the entire event were years in the making and went through a number of different iterations.”

Scott talked about standing post at the entrance to Phoebe Sumter on Monday, describing it as a moving event. He also mentioned participating in the procession through Plains along with law enforcement from across the state. In addition to witnessing the proceedings, he also talked about meeting Rosalynn Carter.

“The first time was when I filled in as a guest speaker at Maranatha Baptist Church. President Carter taught the Bible Study lesson and then I preached the sermon. At the end of every service where the Carters were in attendance, they always took time to pose for photos with all of the visitors. When the visitors were done the Carters took some photos with me and my family. Mrs. Carter told me she enjoyed the message, then laughed and asked if I was interested in leaving policing and being their pastor.”

He made a final concluding statement.

“We were all honored to be able to play a part in honoring Mrs. Carter in the way that she deserved. She and President Carter have impacted people all over the world through their philanthropic work, but nowhere more powerfully than right here in Sumter County. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to the Carter family, and we want them to know that we will always be here for them.”