‘Plains is sad’: Town recalls Jimmy Carter’s legacy at church where he taught Sunday school

PLAINS, Ga. — Members of the church where former President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school for more than four decades paid tribute after learning the 98-year-old entered home hospice care in Plains, Georgia.

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“Plains is sad. We’re all sad. We knew this day was coming,” Jan Williams, a longtime member of Maranatha Baptist Church, told WSB-TV.

Carter, the nation’s 39th president from 1977 to 1981 and a former governor and state senator in Georgia, will remain at his South Georgia home, according to The Carter Center. He is the oldest former living president in U.S. history.

Williams is a longtime friend of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and the fourth-grade teacher of their daughter, Amy, according to the television station.

Jimmy Carter began teaching Sunday school at the church after his term as president ended in 1981. Crowds as large as 500 people would line up to hear the former president’s lessons at the 10 a.m. EST service.

Carter’s niece, Kim Fuller, taught Sunday school this weekend at Maranatha Baptist Church, WSB reported. Fuller spoke about the legacy of King Solomon during the service.

“Maybe it’s time to pass the baton. Who’ll pick it up? No clue,” Fuller said, according to the television station. “I don’t know because that baton is going to be a really big one.”

“I just want to read one of Uncle Jimmy’s quotes,” Fuller said, according to The Associated Press. “Oh, this is going to be really hard.”

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. I’m free to choose that something,” Fuller said, quoting the former president. “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can.”

Zac Steele, a deacon at the church, said that Carter’s legacy was “a big one.”

“I don’t even know where we start or where we finish because it’ll never be finished what he’s done here,” Steele told WSB.

Since health issues forced Carter to halt his lessons at the church, crowds have dwindled, Williams told the television station. But the impact he has had on Plains has endured.

“I want to say something because I want people to know this man may be leaving this world, but what a wonderful place he’s going to,” Williams told WSB.

After the Sunday school service, Pastor Hugh Deloach offered prayers for the Carter family, particularly for Rosalynn Carter, who has been married to the former president for more than 75 years, the longest married presidential couple in U.S. history, the AP reported.

“Lord, especially Mrs. Carter, and God look back on times and years that they’ve been together and Lord just strengthen her in the power of your might as well,” Deloach said.

On its website, Maranatha Baptist Church, asked people to post memories of Carter and his impact on their lives.

“Tell your story. Let us know how you changed the life of someone around you,” the church wrote. “Did you do it? Did you keep doing it? What difference have you made? Did Jimmy Carter inspire you? Tell your story. Accept the challenge.”

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