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Life, legacy of former president on display

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport can now get a glimpse of former President Jimmy Carter's life, accomplishments and humanitarian works, through an exhibit on display at the airport, according to Deanna Congileo, director of public information for The Carter Center.

According to Congileo, Carter was born on Oct. 1, 1924, in Plains, Ga. He became Georgia's 76th governor on Jan. 12, 1971, and was elected president of the United States on Nov. 2, 1976.

Congileo said the free exhibit at the airport, entitled, "Jimmy Carter: Georgia's Native Son," gives its audience a preview of the newly renovated Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, which is two miles east of Downtown Atlanta.

"The airport exhibit is a great opportunity to let millions of visitors know about the new Jimmy Carter [Library and] Museum, and it is a great way to reach out to people in the more than 70 nations where the not-for-profit Carter Center has worked to wage peace, fight disease, and build hope," said Congileo.

The exhibit is located in the walkway connecting the main security checkpoint area and Concourse T, said DeAllous Smith, media relations officer for the airport.

The Carter Center was founded by Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, in 1982. In partnership with Emory University, the center works on human rights issues and the alleviation of human suffering. In addition, it seeks to prevent and resolve conflict, expand freedom and democracy and improve health.

"It's very fitting that the world's busiest airport honors Jimmy Carter, the first and only native Georgian to become president of the United States," said David Vogt, manager of the Airport Art Program, in a statement. "His influence on human rights has reshaped laws in many nations and improved the quality of life for countless people around the world."

The exhibit relays Jimmy Carter's biography through 140 rare photographs and 47 artifacts, placed in cases 10 feet in height, according to Congileo.

It will be up until July 2011, she said.

"One might see anything from an old plow to very fine silk embroidery," said Katherine Marbury, another manager of the Airport Art Program at Hartsfield-Jackson.

According to Congileo, the exhibit is divided into sections which illustrate different stages of Jimmy Carter's life.

A section entitled, "Eradicating Guinea Worm Disease," highlights Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's work through the Carter Center, since 1986, to eliminate the disease. A person can be infected by drinking stagnant water contaminated with water fleas, carrying infected larvae. Once inside the human body, the larvae grow into worms up to three feet long.

According to the museum, about 3,200 cases of individuals carrying the disease arose in four African countries, in 2009, compared to 3.5 million cases in 20 countries in Africa in 1986.

Marbury said she was most impressed with the photographs illustrating Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's dedication to the well being of humankind.

"Sometimes a very simple fix is all it takes to end the most painful and life-threatening illness, but someone has to be willing to implement that change and teach the locals about it," said Marbury. "That is what the Carter Center takes on."

In the section of the exhibit entitled, "Growing Up in Rural Georgia," items such as a farm bell similar to the one rung at the Carter farm each morning, a framed photo of Jimmy Carter as a toddler, and a variety of childhood and family photos, are displayed, illustrating Jimmy Carter's childhood and upbringing in Plains.

According to the museum, Jimmy Carter grew up on a peanut farm in Plains, during the Great Depression. He worked on the farm with his family and tenant farmers, and sold the farm's boiled peanuts in the streets.

Several pictures of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's wedding are displayed in a section of the exhibit, entitled "Courting Rosalynn Smith."

Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Smith grew up a few miles from each other in Plains, according to the museum. In the summer of 1945, after his first date with Rosalynn, Jimmy Carter told his mother that Rosalynn was the woman he wanted to marry. They married on July 7, 1946.

The exhibit also displays Jimmy Carter's campaign posters, from his runs for Georgia Senate, for Georgia governor and U.S. president, in the section entitled, "Race to the White House."

To try to win the nation's trust following years of division over involvement in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, Jimmy Carter's family and the Peanut Brigade, a group of 100 of Jimmy Carter's friends from Georgia, traveled from state to state, and knocked on doors to personally vouch for him, according to the museum. The tactic resulted in wins of the early races in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida.

"Jimmy Carter is the only president from Georgia, and has remained a national and international force for peace since his presidency," said Marbury. "This exhibit focuses not only on President Carter's early life and political career, but also on the very important work of the Carter Center."