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Jimmy Carter admirers across generations celebrate the former president`s 99th birthday
Sep 30

Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) __ J. Edgar Hoover became the federal government's top cop. Ellis Island was curtailed as a portal for immigrants to the United States. France hosted the first Winter Olympics. And a baby in rural Georgia became the first future American president born in a hospital.

The year was 1924, and that tiny fellow in Plains was James Earl Carter Jr., known as "Jimmy" from the start.

The 39th president was celebrated Saturday at his presidential library and museum ahead of his 99th birthday on Sunday. The party was moved up a day to ensure it wouldn't be canceled by a potential federal government shutdown that Congress narrowly averted Saturday evening with a deal sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

"I think of him as a man who did so much to help low-income people and minorities--and I was both growing up," said Marcia Rose, who brought her grandchildren from suburban Marietta to the Carter Presidential Center near downtown Atlanta.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Rose said she is not old enough to have voted for Carter, a Democrat, when he won in 1976 or when he lost to Republican Ronald Reagan four years later. "But I'm old enough to remember his impact," she said. "I wanted to be here to honor him and for us to be part of that history."

Rose joined a few thousand well-wishers who wrote birthday cards that will be taken to Carter's home in Plains. He has been in hospice care since February, spending time his wife, Rosalynn, who is 96 and suffering from dementia, and other family members. Carter is the longest-lived U.S. president ever. Rosalynn Carter trails only Bess Truman, who died at 97, as the longest-lived first lady.

Attendees on Saturday saw video tributes to Jimmy Carter from celebrities and competed in rounds of trivia that highlighted underappreciated details about his life and how much the world has changed since it began. A discounted 99-cent ticket allowed them museum access, which includes a replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during Carter's 1977-81 White House term. And those who stood in line early enough got birthday cake decorated in green, the color Carter chose for his presidential campaign materials in 1975 to reflect his environmental priorities.

For many attendees, the occasion was another step in the evolution of how Carter is remembered.

"Growing up in Texas, our history classes talked about him mostly as a failure, a weak figure, especially militarily and on foreign affairs," said Zach K, an Atlanta banker born after Carter's presidency.

Marlene Salgado is now a public high school history teacher. But as a student herself, "all I remember learning about him was the 'malaise speech' on the energy crisis and the hostages in Iran."

Now, the pair is reading together a comprehensive Carter biography, "His Very Best" by Jonathan Alter, which is among several recent books and documentaries that reassess Carter as more than a failed president who rehabilitated himself as a global humanitarian through his work at The Carter Center.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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