Plains is a small town in Sumter County, Georgia, about 2.5 hours south of Atlanta, by car. Originally inhabited by the Muscogee, an Indigenous culture known to inhabit the Southern Woodlands of the United States, the city now boasts a vibrant, diverse culture. Agriculture, tourism, church and schooling are the heart of the small southern town, and have been over the ages. In fact, throughout the late 1800’s and well into the 20th century, Plains great economic growth was due primarily to the cotton industry. Unfortunately, during the Great Depression the town lost most of its prosperity. Afterwards, Plains remained a quiet country town, immersing itself in the peanut industry. Then, in the 1970’s one of the born and bred locals decided to run for Presidency of the United States.
Jimmy Carter has helped launched Plains Georgia into a full Tourist Attraction, bringing in visitors from across the globe! We welcome you, your family and friends to join us – learn our history and help celebrate our achievements. It’s not every town in America that can claim home to a President and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Tucked into Sumter County, Georgia — Plains is located just 150 miles South of Atlanta and is part of the Americus Micropolitan Statistical Area. Plains is also convenient to Birmingham, Montgomery, Tallahassee, and Savannah. Come see us!
Plains to the White House
In 1975 when Jimmy Carter began his race for the Presidency, national attention was focused on this small southern town. Plains, population 653, was a beehive of activities with press and tourists in the thousands crowding the streets.
Dateline: November 5, 1976, Daybreak Plains, Georgia
“Excitement at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Election Headquarters in the old Seaboard Railroad Depot is at a high fever. This tiny town is packed with thousands of people who have been up all night celebrating Mr. Carter’s win. Fires burn in metal drums along the street, three bands have played during the night and a huge television screen mounted on a building across from the depot has continuously flashed the election returns. It is impossible to drive in Plains; only residents that know back roads can get in or out of town.
Pandemonium breaks out anew as a motorcade from Atlanta arrives carrying Jimmy Carter, the first person to be elected President from the Deep South since the Civil War. As the sun rises over the horizon, President-elect Jimmy Carter addresses this tremendous crowd of supporters from the Railroad Depot as their upturned faces shine with enthusiasm, warmth, and pride.”
Today, Plains is, once again, a quiet, peaceful small town (population 716) with business as usual and smaller numbers of tourist visiting a President’s hometown hoping to get a glimpse of Jimmy Carter and to see this little southern town where a young boy grew up to become the 39th President of the United States.
The rural southern culture of Plains that revolves around farming, church and school had a large influence in molding Mr. Carter’s character and in shaping his political policies.
For this reason, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Preservation District was established to interpret the life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter and to preserve the history of this small rural southern town.
Plains High School (the official State School of Georgia) is the visitor center and museum for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, which consist of 77 acres in Plains administered by the U.S. Department of Interior. The restored school where both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter attended is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visitors can see films, exhibits all depicting the history of Plains and the 39th President of the United States.
More than any President in recent years, Jimmy Carter is closely identified with his hometown. Americans marvel at how a man from such isolated, small-town upbringing came to broaden his horizons to eventually aspire to the highest office in the country. Even his hometown people were surprised by his decision to seek the Presidency.
“It was a little shocking that someone we knew wanted to be the President. Why not?” said Mrs. Maxine Reese, campaign manager at the Plains headquarters.
Why not, indeed! The townspeople of Plains rolled up their sleeves and eagerly set to work to help elect their native son to the Presidency. The Democratic National Committee was thrilled when the town of Plains put on a covered dish campaign dinner that raised one million dollars, the most ever raised at a single fundraising event. Hometown support was obvious when an eighteen-car passenger train dubbed the “Peanut Express (Special),” departed from the Plains depot filled to capacity with ecstatic passengers bound for the 39th Presidential Inauguration.
Other points of interest include his boyhood home on the outskirts of town, and the Carter’s current residence.
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