A memorable moment with Rosalynn Carter

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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As a working journalist back in the day, I had the opportunity to meet a few folks, some famous and others infamous. I have always remembered the time I met Rosalynn Carter.

It was on the campaign trail. Jimmy Carter was running for president and had stopped in Washington, DC. I was an AP reporter, but not one of the first-string reporters who traveled everywhere the candidates went and later were immortalized by Timothy Crouse in his book, “The Boys On The Bus.” I was more like a pinch runner in baseball put in the game because a regular was out sick.

As much as I tried not to, it was difficult to not be awed by the spectacle of it all. I was, after all, still a country boy rooted in the South, and my rural poverty was crystal clear in the rearview mirror.

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We print reporters mostly had disdain for the TV reporters, so I watched with a certain sense of satisfaction as a no-nonsense Secret Service agent assigned to the protection detail gave ABC White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson some comeuppance. Donaldson, who was insufferably arrogant, I thought, stepped across the ropes to get closer. The agent turned to him and ordered him back. Donaldson gave him a look of defiance. The agent told him to either get back behind the ropes or prepare to be put there physically. He complied.

Then she stopped in front of me and looked at my credentials dangling on a light switch chain around my neck. “Hi. I’m Rosalynn Carter. Where are you from, Larry?”

That launched a conversation, albeit brief, about farming in the South, education, poverty, and helping other people in need. I was scribbling as fast as I could while glancing up at her face trying to read it. She thanked me for sharing my thoughts. I thanked her. And she moved on.

It was, in the scheme of things, a mere crumb of detail, and my reporting would emerge later that day in what we called back then a roundup story, a sort of chicken pot pie assembled by one writer using snippets from other reporters.

But then and there I concluded the woman from Georgia was smart, caring, sincere, empathetic–all the things a President should be–but she wasn’t on the ballot. Too bad, I thought.

Now, I’m remembering her ability to connect with caring, a characteristic that seems in short supply today in our world hooked on anger and hate. Her passing this week brought to a close a lifetime of service to her fellow human beings.

Along her long path, she regularly stopped to connect with people of all stripes and listen–really listen–to them.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com