Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Carter’

Happy 90th Birthday to my “Old Friend” from Plains

October 2, 2014

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Yes, I can claim to be an “old friend” of President Jimmy Carter. That’s because he called me that when I met and shook hands with him at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains in July.  A group of my friends and I attended his famous Sunday school class.  That handshake was really special because visitors were asked not to try to shake hands with him.  Too many really firm  handshakes cause problems for someone who  has been around for nine decades.  I was going to follow instructions not to do it, but when he recognized me, his face lit up as he grabbed my hand, shook it, smiled his famous smile and said, “Oh, my old friend. How have you been?” I only chatted with him briefly because there was a line of people behind me waiting to have their pictures taken with him and Mrs. Carter.

It was truly an honor to hear those words “my old friend.”  President Carter – I could call him Jimmy and he wouldn’t mind, I’m sure – but, I don’t.  I like  calling him “President.”  Not only because he is one of the people in this world that I  respect and admire the most,  but because so many people were truly shocked when he was elected President of the United States. I wasn’t. I figured he was going to win from the time that he and Martin Luther King, Sr. joined and raised their hands to sing “We Shall Overcome” with the rest of the delegates at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City.

I was in New York attending a dinner CBS News had for affiliated stations’ news departments during the presidential nominating primaries. One of the CBS staffers raised the question of who might get the Democratic Party nomination.  After a list of names was suggested by those around our table, I said, “What about Jimmy Carter?” The New York fellows almost laughed at the thought. I was thinking how sweet it would be if he got the nomination.  How sweet it was. And how much sweeter it was when he won.

The first time I saw him at a 3rd  Congressional District Democratic Convention at the Rylander Theater in Americus in the 1960s, just based on his looks and charisma, I said to myself that man is going places in politics.  That’s when I started covering the man who would rise from chairman of the Sumter County School Board in 1961 to become the 39th President of the United States in 1977.  

Jimmy Carter is not only a brave man,  but, more importanly, he is a good man.

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Sunday Morning with Almost-90 President Carter

July 20, 2014

President Carter Says China is Headed Toward Having the World’s Largest Christian  Population

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  As usual, when he is there, the Maranatha Baptist  Church at Plains, Georgia was packed Sunday morning.  A new friend who formerly lived in South Dakota, Bill Harlan, had said that he and his wife Marjorie, would like to attend one of President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school classes.  So Carol and Don Nahley, Sidney and Ed Wilson, the Harlan’s, and Julie Bray and I motored to Plains.  It was a delightful experience.  

On October first, President Carter will be 90.  You would  never know it by the way he conducts his Sunday school class.  He is still not only intellectually impressive and witty,  but does not move like a man who has been around that long.  He was on his feet and in motion for the entire lesson, which lasted almost an hour.

The main point of his talk was that all Christians are missionaries, that Christ himself was a missionary. After normalizing relations with China in 1979, he tried to get missionaries back into the country. He asked for three things: Freedom of religion,  the printing of bibles, and allowing missionaries back into China. He got two of them. China agreed to allow freedom of religion and the printing of bibles, but it wouldn’t allow missionaries to return.  Now, President Carter said, China is on its way to having the  world’s largest Christian population. Sometimes it only takes one person to get the job done and, it seems, one missionary to China, President Jimmy Carter, was the man to do it.   

 

The Amazing Jimmy Carter

March 26, 2014

488px-JimmyCarterPortrait2The first time I saw President Jimmy Carter was when, in the 1960s, I covered a 3rd District Democratic Party convention at Americus, Georgia.  He immediately stood out as he walked down the aisle of the Rylander Theater auditorium where the convention was held.  His hair style reminded me of President John F. Kennedy’s, as did his radiant smile.  I said to myself at the time, that man is going to make  news politically.  Sometimes I get it right.

He still has that hair and that radiant smile and , at age 89, is still making news.  His advanced years have not stopped him from writing books and going on national TV to promote them.  David Letterman devoted a lot of his Monday night show to interviewing President Carter about world events and Carter’s latest book A Call to Action. 

The book is about the worldwide abuse and violence against women, and how religion has been and is being used to subjugate them. In the book he writes that the depravation of women and girls is the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge.  He says it is “largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime by the United States.”

To be able to do what he does at his age is quite impressive.  His energy level and ability to  entertain as well as inform was as high as anyone I have seen on the Letterman show. His performance should be an inspiration to senior citizens everywhere.

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50 Years of Covering Bo Callaway

March 17, 2014

When I covered the late former Secretary of the Army Howard  Bo Callaway’s entrance into national politics in 1964, I didn’t reflect on how his actions were a part of a pivotal shift in American politics.  The Solid South was no longer “solid” for the Democratic Party and was moving toward being “solid” for the Republican Party.  Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Law and carried five Southern states, including Georgia.  Bo Callaway switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and ran as a “Goldwater Republican.”  Goldwater lost ,  but Bo won easily in his bid to become the first Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia since Reconstruction.

I first met Bo when I covered the 1964 3rd Congressional District election for WRBL Radio and TV in Columbus.  As far as positions on issues were concerned, I couldn’t tell much difference between them. Both Democrat Garland Byrd, a former Georgia Lt. Governor, and Bo were conservatives, and when I asked them if they were segregationists, neither seemed pleased that I asked the question, but both told me they were.  I wasn’t, but, then, I wasn’t running for public office in 1964 Georgia.

Timing is everything, the adage tells us, and, in 1964,  Bo Callaway’s timing was perfect. He went to Washington, but he only stayed two years, deciding he would rather be Georgia’s  first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.  He came close, but in the 1966 Georgia governor’s race that got national attention, he lost to arch-racist Democrat Lester Maddox in a convoluted election that ended up being decided by a Democratically controlled Georgia Legislature, because he got  the most popular votes, but not enough for a majority, which was Georgia law at the time.  (A plurality wins now.)  I reported that General Assembly election  live for WRBL Radio and TV from the Georgia House of Representatives.  What a show that was!

The Republican National Convention in 1973 that nominated President Richard Nixon for reelection was also quite a show.  I decided at the last-minute that WRBL Radio and TV needed to have some Georgia oriented coverage.  Owner and GM Jim Woodruff, Jr. thought it too late because all of the hotel rooms were taken.  I told him we would fly down in the morning and back that evening, that jets were fast.  He said he would call Bo Callaway, who was a member of the Georgia delegation, to see if he could cut red tape and get us some credentials so we could get on the floor of the convention. He did and Bo did.  When we got on the floor, Bo met us, gave me an interview, and took me over to the California delegation to introduce me to then Governor Ronald Reagan, who graciously gave me an interview.

I only asked Bo one question when he was forced out of his job as campaign manager for Vice President Gerald Ford when he ran against  Jimmy Carter for President.  He held a live prime time news conference in a WSB-TV studio in Atlanta, which was broadcast on TV stations all over Georgia.  Since I drove up from Columbus for the news conference, the WSB-TV producer of the program allowed me to ask the first question about the alleged conflict of interest charge reported by an NBC  correspondent.  Bo responded that the charge was false, but he resigned as Ford’s campaign manager in order not to make the election about him instead of Ford.

When he was sworn in as President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Army in 1973,  a WRBL-TV news photographer and I flew to Washington to cover the ceremony.     After we filmed the ceremony,  he gave me an interview for the home folks.  A West Pointer, who had left the Army as a First Lieutenant after the Korean War, was then outranking all of the generals.

When I working at WTVM, I did a series of half-hour interviews for Georgians and Alabamians who have earned “A Place in History.”  When I interviewed Bo,  he candidly answered all of my questions about his personal and professional life without hesitation.  It was a fun interview with his telling me about such things as President Franklin D. Roosevelt coming to his parent’s Harris County home for cocktails and dinner when he came to nearby Warm Springs.  There was one question that caused him to pause before answering.  I asked him, “What was it like growing up as the son of the richest man in town.” Bo’s father Cason and his uncle Fuller, Jr.  owned Callaway Mills in LaGrange.  As best as I can remember it, he said, “Nobody has ever asked me that question before, Dick.  My father made it clear to me that being who I was carried a responsibility with it.  He said that I had to always conduct myself honorably and, if I didn’t, and he heard about it, I would have to answer to him.  I’ve always remembered that and tried to follow his admonition.”

You may wonder why I refer to him by his nick name. It’s not out of disrespect, but because  I consider that he and I were friends.  There are some people that you cover over the years that you can’t resist becoming friends with.  He is one and his political rival, President Jimmy Carter,  is another. I read where he and Bo eventually became friendly.   Recently, at the Rotary Club of Columbus where he was a member,  as he was sitting at the table next to mine in his wheel chair, necessitated by a stroke, he leaned over and patted me on the shoulder when I was among those thanked for participating in a Rotary Foundation fund-raising program.   That was the last contact I had with Howard “Bo” Callaway, who truly earned a place in history. .

Many Really Big Hitters come from Really Small Towns in Georgia

July 26, 2010
As we drove into Young Harris, Georgia recently,  I had to reflect on why it is so famous – and it is famous.  It’s not big.  The 2000 census counted 604 residents.  That’s almost a hundred less than the town’s very famous college, Young Harris College, which only has 700 students.

Zell Miller, former Georgia United States Senator and Governor

Like Plains,  Young Harris illustrates that a town doesn’t have to be big to produce big leaguers. Zell Miller might not be quite as famous as Jimmy Carter, but he’s plenty famous – and, to a lot of Democrats,  now infamous.  He served as  Georgia’s Democratic Lt. Governor,  Governor, and United States Senator.  But, even though never resigning from the Democratic Party,  he took up with the Republicans, even speaking at the Republican National Convention that nominated George W. Bush for president.   

 Just as Young Harris is famous because of people like Zell Miller, Young Harris College  is also famous, because people like Zell were students there.  And, I’ll bet you didn’t know that, according to Wikipedia,  these famous folks also went to Young Harris College:  “entertainers Oliver Hardy

Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy, is on the floor, and Oliver Hardy is standing next to him in this lobby poster for their first movie, Lucky Dog, as Laurel and Hardy in 1921.

, Wayland Flowers and Amanda Bearse, country music singers Ronnie Milsap and Trisha Yearwood, Major League Baseball player Nick Markakis, and Waffle House founder Tom Forkner. Poet and novelist Byron Herbert Reece was a student and teacher at YHC.”

Wonder if Zell is going to endorse a Democrat or Republican for governor this year?  You just never know what he will do. But, we do know that he did one very important thing for Georgia. He was instrumental in establishing the state lottery, which funds the HOPE Scholarship program. Furnishing college tuition and textbooks is a big deal.