Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carter Recalls His Mother, Miss Lillian, in New Book; She Inspired and Exasperated Him, He Says in an Interview

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Carter Recalls His Mother, Miss Lillian, in New Book; She Inspired and Exasperated Him, He Says in an Interview

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLIE PATTON

When Jimmy Carter went to Washington in 1977, he was accompanied, at least symbolically, by a family of American originals.

There was Billy, the good old boy for whom a beer was soon named; Gloria, whose tomb is inscribed "she rides in Harley Heaven"; and Ruth, an evangelist who once tried to convert porn magnate Larry Flynt.

But none of the Carter children combined eccentricity with accomplishment quite as beguilingly as the matriarch of that brood, Lillian Gordy Carter, who is subject of the former president's 25th book, A Remarkable Mother.

In a telephone interview Monday, Carter remembered Miss Lillian as a person who often inspired him and occasionally exasperated him.

What inspired him was her selfless service throughout her life, first as a nurse to her neighbors in rural Georgia during the Depression, then to the poor of India, where she went as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1966 at the age of 68.

What inspired him even more was her outspoken refusal to accept the prevailing racial code of the South during her lifetime, he said.

"She treated everybody black or white the same way," he said. "She was probably the only person in Sumter County, Ga., who did that. She just didn't care what her neighbors thought."

But she also didn't care what he thought, said Carter, who was governor of Georgia from 1971 to '75 and president from 1977 to 1981.

"She never restrained herself in order to accommodate my political ambitions," he said. "She hoped I would like it, but if I didn't like it, so what. ... I looked on her, sometimes in amazement, sometimes in consternation, sometimes with embarrassment when she would say ridiculous things on Johnny Carson's show. …

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