BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On this Presidents Day, the life of former President Jimmy Carter is being honored as he moves to hospice care, choosing to spend his remaining time at home with his family.
Carter, who served as president of the United States from 1977 to 1981, has close ties to Alabama. In fact, Carter is the last Democrat to carry Alabama when he won the presidency in 1976. And whether through his presidency or work after his time in the White House, Carter touched many lives right here in our area.
Birmingham attorney John Saxon fondly recalls his days as a special assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale in the Carter administration.
“I was impressed by his decency, his authenticity, his love of the American people and public service,” Saxon said.
For former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his first introduction to then-candidate Jimmy Carter was when he introduced him to the law students at Cumberland School of Law in 1976.
“He’s just so personable and caring, a genuine person,” Siegelman said. “He didn’t have any preconceived notions about his value as a political figure. It was just Jimmy Carter the man and his belief and his you know his, compassion for others came through at every encounter.”
Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has had many encounters with the former president over the years and said that with Carter, what you saw is what you got.
“He was exactly what you saw from Plains, Georgia: a peanut farmer,” Jones said. “Brilliant, but a man who could talk to the humblest of folks as well as the mighty.”
Carter’s one-term in office meant he left office with plenty of life ahead of him. How he chose to use that time may have been his greatest legacy, including his work with Habitat for Humanity, which brought him back to Birmingham in 2010. The visit was an encounter Charles Moore from Habitat Birmingham will never forget.
“He would do things like the media interview he would give the media 10-15 minutes and then say ‘Okay, I’m here to work,’ and they would actually, physically work,” Moore said. “It was not a photo-op for them.”
The president has worked with Habitat for some 40 years and worked on almost 4,400 homes.