Presidents and Monarchs, Butterflies and Baptists

Mary Bryant
Bill, Mrs. Carter, President Carter, and Lida
Bill, Mrs. Carter, President Carter, and Lida

Ocracoke residents share their visit with President and Mrs. Carter.

In January 1977, an 18-car “Peanut Special” train left the Plains, Georgia depot and traveled to the inauguration of the 39th President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter.

The people of Plains and the surrounding area have always supported their home grown son and his family.

This past October, Ocracoke residents Bill and Lida Jones went down south to Plains for a special weekend with the President and his wife Rosalynn.

The event that Bill and Lida attended was the Plains Chautauqua Weekend highlighting the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.

As with all former presidents, President Carter and Rosalynn have Secret Service protection around the clock. The security was tight for this event and the Secret Service officers were a constant presence. President Carter still receives death threats.

Plains, Georgia is home to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site which is operated by the National Park Service. In the park is the boyhood Carter farm, the Carter compound (closed to the public), Plains Baptist Church, Plains High School, Marantha Baptist Church, the Golden Peanut Company (formerly Carter Warehouse), Plains Depot and Billy Carter’s Service Station among other sites.

Releasing the monarchs
Releasing the monarchs

Billy Carter’s service station is where President Carter’s brother, Billy, used to speak with reporters and offer up outlandish tales and quotes. He was quite a character and even had his own beer label called “Billy Beer”.

Dr. Chip Taylor, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas was the keynote speaker for the weekend. Dr. Taylor founded Monarch Watch.  Monarch Watch is an outreach program focused on education, research and conservation of monarch butterflies. Habitats for monarch butterflies have been declining and the goal of this program has been to inspire the public, schools, and others to create habitats for monarchs.

Mrs. Carter is a member and supporter of Monarch Watch. She has created the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail. The trail is located inside the Carter compound and is normally closed to the public but Bill and Lida were fortunate to have a trolley tour and see it up close.

President Carter is one of our national treasures and a beloved figure to many. His involvement in the weekend was a massive enticement to those who attended. President Carter grew up in Plains, Georgia (pop.776) before graduating from the US Naval Academy in 1946. From there he went on to serve on a submarine, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. On July 7, 1946 he married Rosalynn Smith, who was also from Plains.

More butterflies!
More butterflies!

When President Carter’s father died in 1953, he left the navy and returned with his family to Georgia where he took over Carter Farms and he and Rosalynn operated Carter’s Warehouse, a seed and farm supply company.  In 1962 he won a Georgia Senate seat. He became Georgia’s governor in 1971 and president in 1976. Mr. Carter has written 29 books (the latest one is available at the Ocracoke library) and started the Carter Center through which he has engaged in conflict mediation throughout the world. Mr. Carter also volunteers his time with Habitat for Humanity building houses, teaching Sunday School, and serving as a member of the Elders, a group of independent global leaders. Mr. Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

It has been widely publicized that President Carter has been waging a battle against cancer.

President Carter teaching Sunday School
President Carter teaching Sunday School

Jimmy Carter's spokeswoman released a statement in November, reporting that Carter was responding well to treatment and no evidence of new tumors had turned up. Carter received a radiation treatment in August aimed at four small tumors on his brain and regular doses of Keytruda, a newly-approved drug to help his immune system seek out any cancer cells appearing elsewhere in his body. Doctors also removed melanoma from his liver.

Bill and Lida say that the Jimmy Carter they saw in October appeared to be full of life and vigor at 91 and given the packed schedule seemed to take it all in stride. He taught Sunday School to the group at his beloved Marantha Baptist Church. The church has seen huge crowds for their weekly Sunday school class since President Carter’s illness was announced. The Carters made a great impression on Bill and Lida who say that they seem to be the most genuine, down-to-earth people you could imagine. I can imagine this to be true.

The lesson for that day was “How Do I Find Joy In Life” based on passages from Ecclesiastes.

If you would like to visit Plains, Georgia and possibly hear President Carter teach Sunday school, visit the church website for more information

For more information on the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, visit

If you want to help the Monarch Butterflies you can go to the Monarch Watch website at


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