Jimmy Carter’s Southern Christmas

November 26, 2012 | By | Comments (17)
Jimmy Carter

Photo by Greg Dupree

Home Base: Plains, Georgia

Occupation: 39th President of the United States; Global humanitarian

On His Plate: The annual Habitat for Humanity Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter work project in Léogâne, Haiti

I grew up during the Great Depression in a rural community about 2½ miles from Plains. During those ancient times I learned firsthand the problems of poverty and racial discrimination. That life showed me how important it is to reach out to people who are greatly in need.

Plains, Georgia, is my favorite spot in the South. When I left the Navy, I had job offers all over the world. We came back to Plains. When I left the governorship, we came back to Plains. When I left the presidency, we came back to Plains. Our land is there. Our church is there. Our friends are there. No matter where we are in the world, the number one goal for my wife, Rosalynn, and me is just to get back to Plains.

As a child, I was a typical farm boy. I’ve worked with my hands all my life—growing cotton, peanuts, and corn and building houses and repairing fences. Now I look back on those things with some pleasure. I can see that my favorite activities were those that bound me more closely to the land.

“You must be from Georgia.” That’s what a corpsman at the Navy hospital told my wife when she said, “It’s fixin’ to rain” before one of our babies was born. Fixin’ to eat, fixin’ to leave—that one word is my favorite Southern expression.

Each year we take a family vacation after Christmas. Rosalynn and I have four children, 12 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and two more on the way. It’s difficult to get together on Christmas Day—too many in-laws! So every year for the past 25 years we take everyone on a Christmas vacation. My wife and I pay all the trip bills so, of course, everybody comes.

Building a home in five days is hard work. Particularly as I get older. But a secure house gives Habitat homeowners a realization that they can have a better life.

Every Sunday I’m in town I teach Bible lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church. For me Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. I never let my family forget that.

My elementary school principal greatly influenced my life. Her name was Julia Coleman, and she saw in us young farm children the potential for greatness. That stuck with me.

I’m a turkey hunter. Every year I try to harvest two wild turkeys, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. That’s our Christmas supper nowadays, a wild turkey and all the trimmings—dressing, collard greens, and corn on the cob.

When I won the Nobel Peace Prize, Willie Nelson came over to Oslo to perform “Georgia on My Mind.” Willie always invites me up on stage to sing “Amazing Grace.” I have a very bad voice, and he generally turns the microphone away from me. But I’m up there.

"Accomodate changing times but cling to unchanging principles." - Jimmy Carter

“Accomodate changing times but cling to unchanging principles.” – Jimmy Carter


  1. Kathy

    Mr. President,

    A true southerner is always “fixin” to do something, if not then ya’ aint doing nothing at all! I was born in Colquitt, Ga and spent a great deal of my childhood on a farm in Damascus, Ga. Later moving to Atlanta to work for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Even in Atlanta, they knew I was from the deep south. We work hard, laugh harder & always ready to help anyone in need. You represent the south far greater than any other President thus far. You and your wife make the world a better place to live in. Thank you & Happy New Year!

    January 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm
  2. GiGi

    Mr. President:

    I too am proud that I have lived through your Presidency; as well as your Humanitarian work. There are two living men who I admire; Billy Graham and Yourself. Both of you are Godly men who have served mankind in many roles. It truly is a shame that America has not had a sitting President with scruples and morals such as you, for if they did, America would not be in the position it is in today; this is my humble opinion. God tells us that Man will destroy himself; we are doing a grand job don’t you think? Your books are truly inspiring; as well as your good deeds. Mrs. Carter is too be admired for her tenacity as she stood and continues to stand by your side. The best of Holiday greetings, peace and love toward you and your family this Holiday Season.

    Thank you from another Southerner who wishes a Merry Christmas to ya’ll.


    December 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm
  3. Martha Walker Cagle Smith

    Mr. President,

    I to am from S. GA, in fact Georgetown, GA. I can remember the day Miss Lillian came to ABAC. I was the lucky one to show her around campus. My mother, Margaret Walker, went to your inaugural ball when you became Gov. of GA. I also love and use the word “fixing to”.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm
  4. Herman L. Harris

    Mr. President,
    I’m proud to be an alumnus of the Carter-Mondale campaign of 1976, one of only two delegates from Alabama elected PLEDGED to you from the beginning. I’m disgusted that someone “relieved” me of my Peanut souvenir.
    Herman L. Harris
    Montgomery, Alabama

    December 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm
  5. Betty Whitworth

    My Dad was a great fan yours, Mr. President. He was a Republican all his life until you came along. He stood in line for an autographed book of yours and cherished it until the day he died. I can’t think of anyone else that he would have paid that much attention to. Now the book is mine and I cherish it too.

    December 6, 2012 at 6:05 pm
  6. William Brown

    Dear President Carter,
    You and your wife continue to make our family proud for all the good things you all do for humanity the world over. We’ve been privileged to attend one of your Sunday school lessons and were inspired by your thoughts. As fellow Georgians, you have made us very proud.

    December 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm
  7. Chris Davenport

    Dear President Carter and Rosalynn,
    What an honor to share my thoughts with you. May I start by saying the two of you are, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest humanitarians to ever live in the White House. I too am from the South and I am still trying to figure out what a “Hand Basket” is because my mom used to tell me if I didn’t behave I would be going to Hell in a “Hand Basket”. So many great southern slang expressions!! May God bless you and your entire family this Christmas and for many more to come.

    Ya’ll is good people!
    Chris Davenport
    North Port, FL

    December 4, 2012

    December 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm
  8. Carla Griffin

    Hey, Jimmy! I mean, Mr. President. You made me realize that people from S. GA CAN amount to something, & I’ve always told my children that. I also want to thank you for your efforts to promote peace. Tell Rosalynn I said “Hey!”

    Love Ya’ll!
    Carla Griffin
    Norman Park, GA

    December 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm
  9. Connie P.

    Dear Mr. President,
    I feel so honored to get this priviledge to write to you. My father was a republican his entire life…he died in August 2008 at the age of 82. He was a wonderful man whom I adored. When I was very young and you were elected president he said something I will never forget and did not understand at that time. His exact words were, ” That Jimmy Carter is a FINE man and a honest man….it’s ashame they will not allow him to stay president unless he becomes one of them. I thought my father had lost his marbles at that time, because all I had heard was how bad the democrats were and the republicans were the best people around. Later in life I knew what my father meant. You were a honest man then and you stayed that way. You were the one democrat that my father had the upmost respect for. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

    Connie P.

    December 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm
  10. Linda Fowler

    Merry Christmas, Mr. President! What inspirations you and Rosalynn are for me! Thank you.

    December 4, 2012 at 11:57 am
  11. Sylvia

    Dear Mr. President,
    I really enjoyed your article. As a pastor of a small church, I admire your missionary work in helping others, no matter what race they are. I grew up with no mother and father, and I had a teacher to inspire me to be a teacher myself. I am thankful for all God has given me, and He has allowed me to touch the lives of many as well. Again, I want to say thank you for all you have done in the past and present. God is not finished with you and your wife yet. God bless you! Merry Christmas from Wadesboro, NC.

    December 4, 2012 at 11:15 am
  12. Nancy

    Thank you Mr. President and Rosalynn for keeping your southern roots. I too am always “fixin” to do something.
    Merry Christmas from Waycross, Ga.

    December 4, 2012 at 10:51 am
  13. Pat Christensen

    Dear Mr. President, I admire your commitment to our country and all the activities you and Rosalynn support. I don’t know how you have the energy. You are an inspiration to my husband and myself in our retirement ages.

    You will be remembered for all your good deeds and sincerity, your living your faith and generosity.

    I’m from Georgia too and I’m fixin to do more for my community as well!

    Thank you from an American and a Georgian.

    “The more I learn, the less I know.” Socrates

    December 4, 2012 at 10:33 am
  14. Susan

    Jimmy and Rosalynn
    Thank you for always standing by the truth and for sticking to southern roots.
    Merry Christmas from Ellijay GA

    December 4, 2012 at 10:18 am
  15. Rita Rickabaugh

    Thank You Mr. President and Rosalynn for all your hard work for Habitat for Humanity.
    You are an inspiration to all and spreading the love/word of Christ.

    December 4, 2012 at 10:07 am
  16. Christine Cason

    I loved all you had to say, especially, ‘fixin’ which a word I grew up with. Thank you for all you and Rosalynn do for Habitat for Humanity.

    December 4, 2012 at 9:08 am
  17. Shirley Dehmer

    Dearest Mr. President,
    Honey, you are getting so old! I’m not fussing, I am too. I was born in the late1930’s, so I missed most of the Depression, but I lived with the effects of it on my parents and grandparents all my life. We always had two freezers of food, not one. I learned to can vegetables and I still do that. I was a Republican until Ronald Reagan. I voted for him the first time he ran, and then I have never voted Republican again. I believed all the trash they had to say about you, I am ashamed to say. I later found out about Karl Rove and his ability to “Spin” the truth. Haven’t we seen his dirty finger stirring all these years? I hope he overplayed his hand during this last election and maybe we won’t ever hear from him again. What a nasty package.
    I want to wish you and Roselyn well. We are all coming to the end of our days and I know we will be happy to finally see our maker. I haven’t served on your level, but I have done some things that make me proud of my contribution as well. We all love and honor you and your wonderful wife. Shirley Dehmer Marble Falls, Texas

    November 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

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