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The Historic SAM Shortline Railroad Presidential Flyer 1/11/2024

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I arose at the Holiday Inn Express and after our Internet duties, went down to the lobby for breakfast then gathered what we needed and drove to the Georgia Veterans State Park, where the SAM Shortline's station is located, and followed Bart and Sarah Jennings into the parking lot after the gate was opened.

History of the SAM Shortline Railroad

The story of the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway illustrates New South boosterism, boom, and bust in Georgia during the 1880's and 1890's. Founded in Americus by Samuel Hugh Hawkins and other ambitious men eager to secure the continued prosperity and dominance their city enjoyed during the post-Civil War period, the SAM created what in fact was a second railroad boom for Americus, the first boom having occurred with the arrival of the South Western Railroad thirty years earlier in 1854. Promoting not only the fortunes of Americus, the SAM spawned the development of numerous new towns along its 265-mile route stretching eventually from Montgomery, Alabama to Lyons, Georgia.

Prior to and immediately after the Civil War, the only railroad serving Sumter and surrounding counties was the South Western, which was organized in Macon in the late 1840s, reached Americus by October 1854, and entered Albany through the purchase and construction of additional track between 1856 and 1857. The coming of the South Western Railroad in the early 1850s caused Americus to experience its first population and construction boom, transforming it from a small courthouse town to the center of the region’s expanding wagon trade.

Facing no competition in southwest Georgia and virtually no government regulation, the South Western, and its lessee, the Central Rail Road & Banking Company of Georgia, were able to charge what many Sumter County residents believed to be exorbitant and discriminatory rates, thus contributing to a decline in the city’s trade. Americus leaders responded by petitioning the State Constitutional Convention of 1868 to give the General Assembly broad regulatory powers over the railroads. Chief among those protesting the Central’s rates in the 1870s and early 1880s was Samuel Hugh Hawkins. A successful Americus lawyer, banker and civic leader, Hawkins advocated for the establishment of a powerful state railroad commission to regulate tariffs. The Central allegedly retaliated by removing the name Americus from its system maps and instead designating the growing town as "Way Station No. 9".

In addition to calling for government regulation, many leaders in Sumter and the surrounding counties of Schley, Webster, and Stewart began proposing the construction of new lines that would allow them to ship and receive directly by rail rather than moving freight to and from Americus by wagon. Several of these proposed lines would have bypassed Americus completely. During the early 1880s, the combined prospects of Americus losing the wagon trade of nearby planters and being by-passed by new railroad lines caused great alarm among business and community leaders like Samuel H. Hawkins, thus Hawkins led local investors in the organization of the Americus, Preston & Lumpkin Railroad in 1884 to ensure that Americus would continue to dominate the region's trade. From the company’s headquarters in Americus, Hawkins would serve as president of the AP&L and its successor, the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway, until foreclosure in 1895.

The original charter of the AP&L called for a narrow-gauge line to be built from Americus west toward the Chattahoochee River through Preston and Lumpkin, both of which were county seats without railroads. After reaching Lumpkin in 1886, the charter was amended, allowing for an extension to be built from Lumpkin north to Louvale, Georgia and from Americus east to Abbeville, Georgia, the county seat of Wilcox County situated on the Ocmulgee River. By 1888 the railroad began operating steamboats down the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers to Savannah and Brunswick by way of Darien.

In 1888 Hawkins' and his associates' plans expanded significantly when they decided to convert the narrow-gauge line to standard gauge and extend it both east and west to create a direct route between Montgomery, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia. In the same year the road was appropriately renamed the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway, known simply as the SAM. Upon its completion the SAM’s mainline would stand at 265 miles in length and extend from Montgomery, Alabama to Lyons, Georgia. From Lyons, the SAM entered Savannah under a reciprocal agreement to operate over the tracks of the newly-constructed Savannah & Western Railroad, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central. The termination of this beneficial agreement in 1891 would in fact contribute to the downfall of the SAM.

The territory east of Americus through which the SAM's mainline was constructed was largely undeveloped and sparsely populated before the railroad's arrival. The Americus Investment Company, the holding company of the SAM, and its president, Sumter County native Henry Clay Bagley, capitalized on the railroad's eastward progress by creating towns across Dooly (now Crisp), Wilcox, Dodge, Telfair, and Montgomery (now Toombs) Counties. In addition to Plains and Richland, both west of Americus, the following towns to the east owe their existence to the building of the SAM Railway: Cordele, Seville, Pitts, Rochelle, Rhine, Milan, Helena, Alamo, Vidalia, and Lyons. Cordele’s name honors Samuel H. Hawkin's wife and daughter, both named Cordelia, while the towns of Seville, Rochelle, Rhine, Milan, and Lyons bear their names, the story goes, as a result of the Hawkins family’s travels through Europe.

In Sumter County, the first new community and eventually the most famous to develop as a result of the AP&L Railroad was Plains, the home of President Jimmy Carter. Three earlier settlements, The Plains of Dura, Magnolia Springs, and Lebanon, existed near the location of the railroad’s projected mainline through western Sumter County prior to its arrival in 1885. As the tracks approached the Plains of Dura, residents of these settlements moved to be nearer the railroad and created the new town of Plains.

In Americus, the result of the SAM Railway’s development was a second building and population boom, the likes of which had not been seen since the first boom in the 1850s. By 1890, the town ranked eighth in the state in terms of its population, which stood at 6398 and represented a 75% increase over the town’s population in 1880. New businesses included the Americus Guano Company, the Americus Oil Company, the Americus Illuminating and Power Company, the Americus Construction Company, and the Americus Grocery Company, as well as the AP&L Warehouse and Compress Company.

During this era, in addition to many new downtown commercial buildings being constructed, a new county and city government complex was built. Moreover, one of the earliest electrically-driven streetcar companies chartered in Georgia operated in Americus by 1890. But of all the construction and development related to the New South boom of the late 1880s and early 1890s, the town's crowning achievement was the Windsor Hotel, opened in 1892.

The great boom was halted by the announcement of the SAM Railway being placed into receivership on December 10, 1892. Unable to meet the January interest payments on the railroad’s debt, local SAM investors were forced to take this drastic step to ensure that local obligations would be met before sending any money to pay northern creditors. The railroad was short on cash for a number of reasons, including a new state law limiting the issuance of railroad stocks and bonds, the new law coming at a time when the SAM desperately needed additional capital to cover the cost of building its expensive Montgomery extension.

As Americus began to see the SAM’s crisis lead to the failure of the Bank of Americus and the Americus Investment Company, the railroad’s conductors and engineers launched a strike to protest the fact that they had not yet received satisfactory new contracts under the receivers. When the situation grew more severe after the entire country reeled from the financial panic in 1893, the Savannah Americus and Montgomery was sold to John Skelton Williams of Richmond, Virginia and his associates who reorganized the company as the Georgia and Alabama Railway in 1895. Williams merged his railroad interests to form the Seaboard Air Line Railway on July 1, 1900.

Despite the downfall of Samuel H. Hawkins, who reportedly lost nearly one million dollars of his own money in an effort to preserve local control of the railroad, the SAM continued under new ownership to provide an important link in the railroad connections from the Midwest to the Atlantic. It provided employment for hundreds of Sumter county residents through the years and contributed to the growth and development of towns across its corridor through Georgia. In fact Samuel Hugh Hawkin’s railroad continues to serve the region today under the freight-hauling Heart of Georgia and the passenger excursion operation known as the Historic SAM Shortline Railroad.​

The excursion train founders began putting the train together in 2000. It took two years to locate all of the cars and restore them. The first public run was on Oct. 26, 2002. All of the state-owned cars were built in 1939 or 1949 and have seating for up to 80 people. The excursion train follows the historic route from Cordele to Plains, gliding through cotton fields, pecan groves and peanut farms and over Lake Blackshear. Passengers ride in climate-controlled, train cars to visit sites such as the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum, Historic Downtown Americus, President Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains and his boyhood home & farm in Archery. The track was recently improved to increase speed from 10 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour in some stretches.

We started our day by photographing most of the train.

Georgia Railroad Pullman car "Dearing" built by Pullman in 1925 for the Great Northern Railway. It was originally named "Thompson" and was a 12 Section-1 Drawing Room sleeper. Operating on Great Northern's "Oriental Limited", it was placed in Pullman pool service in 1931 and operated as such until being sold to the Chicago Great Western Railway in 1948. The car was rebuilt in the early 1950's as an office car with three bedrooms and three baths, a dining room, observation end platform, kitchen and crew room. The car operated on the Chicago and North Western Railway's office car fleet until 1996 when it was sold to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The car was purchased by its current owners in 2006 and was redesignated as a Georgia Railroad car and named "Dearing". The car has had a complete mechanical update with completely rebuilt trucks and refurbished understructure. Today, the car features two bedrooms, three baths, crew room, dining room, kitchen, observation lounge and platform.

The drumhead.

Milwaukee Road observation car "Wisconsin" was built at their West Milwaukee Shops in 1948. The car includes an open platform on the rear, a large lounge area, several bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen. The car remained in service for the Milwaukee Road until 1977 when it was retired and sold into private ownership Purportedly, the "Wisconsin" was sold to Gene Love and renamed the "Silurian." Upon his death, the car was donated the the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis, where it eventually was brought back to operating condition by the Frisco 1522 group and renamed "Blue Bonnet". It was used as one of the 1522's support cars, though not Amtrak compatible. The car was sold by the museum to the Friends of the 261, who in turn sold it to the SAM Railroad, where it now runs.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas lounge-sleeper "J. Pinckney Henderson" (PPCX 800046) built by Pullman Standard in 1953. The car later became Northern Pacific 527 then Burlington Northern 527 before going becoming Amtrak 7220 in 1971 then was transferred to private ownership and renovated for charter service. In 2014, the car was named "J. Pinckney Henderson", after the first governor of Texas and owned by the Lancaster & Chester Railway Company "The Springmaid Line."

Norfolk and Western 10-6 sleeper "Americus", nee "Randolph Macon College" built by Pullman in 1949. Originally the car wore a full Tuscan red, black roof and gold lettering then was converted to a MARC commuter coach in 1964. The SAM purchased the car in 2003 and it has been hauling passengers since.

Norfolk and Western 10-6 sleeping car "Leslie", nee "Augusta County" built by Pullman in 1949ailroad in 1949. Originally the car wore a full Tuscan red, black roof and gold lettering then was converted to a MARC commuter coach in 1964. The SAM purchased the car in 2003 and has been hauling passengers since.

Pennsylvania Railroad 21-roomette sleeper "Plains" was built Pullman in 1949 as Pennsylvania Railroad 8252 and originally named "Chester Inn". The car operated on "The Iron City Express" as a regularly-assigned sleeper and on the Indianapolis Limited as a through sleeper. When delivered, it wore a full Tuscan Red colour, with gold lettering and a black roof. In 1958, it was renamed "William Thaw" then five years later, was converted to a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking section for corridor operations and renumbered 1546. When converted to a coach, the car was changed from Tuscan red to a stainless-steel coach. As No. 1546, it served on the corridor through the 1960's into the Penn Central era and beyond, until it was sold to Maryland DOT in 1976. "William Thaw" worked in commuter service, being re-numbered several times, MDOT 1515 then to MARC 154. MARC put the Pennsylvania Railroad Keystone, as well as the car's original name, on the letter board.

It operated until 2001 on one of MARC's express commuter trains all over the network. In 2003, SAM Shortline purchased the car and renamed it "Plains" and kept the MARC number as 154. In 2021, it received a fresh coat of paint on the window band, new lettering and was re-numbered back to its original number.

Norfolk & Western Railroad "Georgia Veterans", nee 10-6 sleeper "Washington & Lee University" built by Pullman in 1949. Originally, the car wore a full Tuscan red, black roof and gold lettering then was converted to a MARC commuter coach in 1964. The SAM purchased the car in 2003 and has been hauling passengers since.

"Archery" was built in 1949 as a 21-roomette sleeper, Pennsylvania Railroad 8271, and originally named "Mansfield Inn". The car operated on "The Iron City Express" as a regularly-assigned sleeper, as well as on the "Indianapolis Limited" as a through-sleeper. When delivered, it wore a full Tuscan Red colour, with gold lettering and a black roof. In 1963, "Mansfield Inn" was converted to a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking section for corridor operations and renumbered 1542. When converted to a coach, the car was changed from Tuscan red to a stainless-steel coach. As No. 1542, it served on the corridor through the 1960's into the Penn Central era and beyond, until it was sold to Maryland DOT in 1976. "Mansfield Inn" worked in commuter service and was re-numbered several times, MDOT 1513 then to MARC 152. MARC put the Pennsylvania Railroad Keystone, as well as the car's original name, on the letter board.

The "Mansfield Inn"operated until 2001 on one of MARC's express commuter trains all over the network then in 2003, SAM Shortline purchased the car, renamed it "Archery" and kept the MARC number as 152. In 2021, "Archery" received a fresh coat of paint on the window band, new lettering, and re-numbered back to its original number.

Our Trip

At 9:12 AM, boarding commenced, with the Jennings and the Guenzlers walking the train to the first car, "Cordele", and took seats across the aisle. At 9:30, we started our journey, bound for Plains.

As we moved, you can see we were in the siding at Georgia Veterans State Park, pulling out onto the mainline.

Lake Blackshear, a man-made lake on the Flint River in Georgia created by a dam that was constructed from 1925 to 1930 and named after General David Blackshear .

US Highway 280 crossing Lake Blackshear.

Looking to the south shore of the lake.

Cypress trees in the lake. When the dam was constructed, little effort was made to cut the trees that would soon be under ater. It was believed that the trees would soon die and decompose once submerged. While this was true for many of the trees, there are still many living cypress trees in the middle of the lake, as well as many dead trees that have not fallen down.

The west shore of the lake.

Pecan trees waiting for spring.

An empty cotton field.

The world is waiting for spring.

The interior of the "Cordele".

Bart and Sarah Jennings.

We ran through the town of Desoto.

Some fields are green.

While other fields await planting.

A cabbage field awaits the harvesters.

There is green in this field.

Cotton is grown here.

Grazing cattle.

In Americus, SAM Shortline has a yard, which included Amtrak sleeper 2932 "Pacific Shore", nee Amtrak 2632 "Pacific Shore" built by Pullman in 1971. It was acquired by the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera, Alabama before being moved to the SAM Shortline Railroad.

Stone Mountain Railroad coach 1868, nee Long Island 2867, built by Pullman Standard in 1950.

Heart of Georgia caboose 2003, nee Southern X60, and 2004, nee Southern X486, both built by Gantt Manufacting in 1970.

SAM Shortline Railroad Americus station.

The Georgia Southwestern railroad tracks where I chased a Georgia Southwestern passenger train on 11/19/2005.

Two cotton fields that we passed en route to Plains.

A green field, a rarity at this time of year.

Latie Peanut and Grain Company.

Plains, Georgia, home of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States. We pulled into the siding at Plains then detrained.

Our Layover in Plains

This caught my eye first, the Billy Carter petrol station, also a Phillips 66 station.


Seaboard Air Line Plains station built in 1888 and used by Jimmy Carter to start his presidental campaign.

Heart of Georgia GP38-2 3573, ex. Helm Leasing 3894, exx. Helm Atantic Leasing 216, exxx. Helm Atantic Leasing 346, exxxx. Union Pacific 346, exxxxx. Missouri Pacific 2110, nee Missouri Pacific 959, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1973.

SAM Shortline coach "Georgia Veterans", history is above.

SAM Shortline "Archery", history is above.

"Cordele" was built in 1949 as a 21-roomette sleeper for the Pennsylvania Railroad, numbered 8274 and originally named "New Castle Inn". The car operated on “The Iron City Express” as a regularly-assigned sleeper as well as "Indianapolis Limited" as a through sleeper. When delivered, it wore a full Tuscan Red colour, with gold lettering and a black roof. In 1963, "New Castle Inn" was converted to a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking section for corridor operations and renumbered 1539. When converted to a coach, the car was changed from Tuscan red to a stainless-steel coach. As No. 1539, it served on the corridor through the 1960's into the Penn Central era and beyond, until it was sold to Maryland DOT (MARC) in 1976. "New Castle Inn" worked in commuter service and was re-numbered several times, MDOT 1512 then to MARC 151. MARC put the Pennsylvania Railroad Keystone, as well as the car's original name, on the letter board. The "New Castle Inn" operated until 2001 on one of MARC's express commuter trains all over the network.

In 2003, SAM Shortline purchased the car and renamed it "Cordele", and kept the MARC number as 151. In 2021, it received a fresh coat of paint on the window band, new lettering, and renumbered back to its original number.

SWGX power car 891372, nee United States Army hospital kitchen car 891372 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1953. The Army then sold the car into private ownership via public auction and the private owners converted the car into a power car, installing two large diesel generators. When the SAM Shortline acquired it in 2002, it was painted in gray and blue. After many years of running excursions to Plains, the car looked rather worn out and it was decided to paint the car into its originally-delivered paint scheme. Volunteers and employees spent many hours of January and February 2022 prepping the car for paint. The power car had several areas of body work that had to be patched, old paint to be sanded and old decals to come off. The car was sanded and sprayed with primer then painted in Olive Drab on the sides and end sheets. The roof was painted silver and the undercarriage was painted black. New decals were cut from a local vinyl print shop and volunteers applied the new decals to make the car look like it did in 1953.

Heart of Georgia GP38-2 3552, ex. GATX Rail Locomotive Group, exx. Union Pacific 756, exxx. Union Pacific 756 exxxx. Missouri Pacific 2256, nee Rock Island 4318, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1979.

The whole train before the crew moved it.

Heart of Georgia emblem.

The rear of the locomotive.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas lounge-sleeper "J. Pinckney Henderson", history is above.

Milwaukee Road observation car "Wisconsin", history is above.

Georgia Railroad Pullman "Dearing", history is above.

The Plains station. Elizabeth and I then toured the museum inside.

President Jimmy Carter Georgia historic plaque.

Plains Depot.

Campaign buttons.

The President from Plains.

Carter Wins!

The Man from Plains.

The Carters' Legacy of Service

Plains and its Depot.

Road to the White House.

An American Hometown.

The Grin Will Win!

Plains, Georgia Our Country, Our Democracy!

Welcome to Plains, Georgia.

Unexpected Frontrunner.

Small Town Headquarters.

Jimmy Who?

Jimmy Carter History

Jimmy Carter served as the nation’s chief executive during a time of serious problems at home and abroad. Carter’s perceived mishandling of these issues led to defeat in his bid for re-election. He later turned to diplomacy and advocacy, founding The Carter Center in 1982 with his late wife, Rosalynn. For these efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2002. Carter is the author of more than 30 books, most recently Faith: A Journey for All. He has been in hospice care since February 2023.

James Earl Carter Jr. was born on October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. His father, James Sr., went by Earl and was a hardworking peanut farmer who owned his own small plot of land as well as a warehouse and store. His mother, Bessie Lillian Gordy Carter, also went by her middle name. Lillian was a registered nurse who in the 1920s had crossed racial divides to counsel Black women on health care issues. Jimmy is the oldest of James and Lillian’s four children, including two daughters and a son.

When Carter was four years old, the family relocated to Archery, a town approximately two miles from Plains. It was a sparsely populated and deeply rural town, where mule-drawn wagons remained the dominant mode of transportation, and electricity and indoor plumbing were still uncommon. Carter was a studious boy who avoided trouble and began working at his father’s store at the age of 10. His favorite childhood pastime was sitting with his father in the evenings, listening to baseball games and politics on the battery-operated radio.

Both of Carter’s parents were deeply religious, something they passed down to their son. They belonged to Plains Baptist Church and insisted that Carter attend Sunday school, which his father occasionally taught. Carter attended the all-white Plains High School while the area’s majority Black population received educations at home or at church. Despite this pervasive segregation, two of Carter’s closest childhood friends were Black, as were two of the most influential adults in his life, his nanny, Annie Mae Hollis, and his father’s employee Jack Clark.

While the Great Depression hit most of the rural South very hard, the Carters managed to prosper during these years, and by the late 1930s, his father had over 200 workers employed on his farms. In 1941, Carter became the first person from his father’s side of the family to graduate from high school.

Carter studied engineering at Georgia Southwestern Junior College before joining the Naval ROTC program to continue his engineering studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He then applied to the highly competitive Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, which accepted him to begin studies in the summer of 1943. With his reflective, introverted personality and small stature - Carter stood only 5 feet 9 inches tall - he did not fit in well among his fellow midshipmen.

Nevertheless, Carter continued to excel at academics, graduating in the top 10 percent of his class in 1946. While on leave in the summers, Carter had reconnected with a girl named Rosalynn Smith whom he had known since childhood. They married in July 1946.

Navy Man Turned Peanut Farmer

The Navy assigned Carter to work on submarines, and in the early years of their marriage, the Carters—like many a military family—moved frequently. After a training program in Norfolk, Virginia, they moved out to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where Carter was an electronics officer on the USS Pomfret. Subsequent postings took the family to Groton, Connecticut; San Diego; and Washington.

In 1952, Carter was assigned to work with Admiral Hyman Rickover developing a nuclear submarine program in Schenectady, New York. The brilliant and notoriously demanding admiral made a profound impression on Carter. “I think, second to my own father, Rickover had more effect on my life than any other man,” he later said. Two interview questions that Rickover asked him inspired the name for the future president's first book, Why Not the Best?.

In July 1953, Carter’s father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and in the aftermath of his death, the farm and family business fell into disarray. Although Rosalynn initially objected, Carter moved his family back to rural Georgia so he could care for his mother and take over the family's affairs. In Georgia, Carter resuscitated the family farm and became active in community politics, winning a seat on the Sumter County Board of Education in 1955 and eventually becoming its chairman.

Accomplishments as a Georgia Politician

The 1950s were a period of great change in the American South. In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ordered the desegregation of public schools, and in the aftermath of that decision, civil rights protestors vociferously demanded an end to all forms of racial discrimination. However, politics in the rural South still largely reflected the reactionary racial outlook of the “Old South.” Carter was the only white man in Plains to refuse to join a segregationist group called the White Citizens’ Council, and shortly afterward, he found a sign on the front door of his home that read: “Coons and Carters go together".

It was not until the 1962 Supreme Court ruling in Baker v. Carr, which required that voting districts be redrawn in a way that stopped privileging rural white voters, that Carter saw an opportunity for a “new Southerner,” such as he considered himself, to win political office. That same year, he ran for the Georgia State Senate against a local businessman named Homer Moore. Although the initial vote showed that Moore had won the election, it was blatantly obvious that his victory was the result of widespread fraud. In one precinct, 420 ballots were cast even though only 333 were issued. Carter appealed the outcome, and a Georgia judge discarded the fraudulent votes and declared Carter the winner. As a two-term state senator, Carter earned a reputation as a tough and independent politician, curbing wasteful spending and steadfastly supporting civil rights.

In 1966, after briefly considering a run for the United States House of Representatives, Carter instead decided to run for governor. However, in the midst of a white backlash to the Civil Rights Movement, Carter’s liberal campaign failed to gain momentum in the Democratic primaries, and he finished a distant third place. The eventual winner was Lester Maddox, an ardent segregationist who had infamously barricaded the doors of his restaurant and brandished an axe to ward off Black customers.

Governors were limited to one term under Georgia law, though, so Carter almost immediately began positioning himself for the 1970 gubernatorial election. This time around, Carter ran a campaign specifically targeted at the white rural voters who had rejected him as too liberal in 1966. Carter publicly opposed busing as a method of integrating public schools, limited public appearances with Black leaders, and actively courted the endorsements of several noted segregationists, including Governor Maddox. He so completely reversed his staunch commitment to civil rights that the liberal Atlanta Constitution Journal called him an "ignorant, racist, backward, ultra-conservative, red-necked South Georgia peanut farmer". Nevertheless, the strategy worked, and in 1970, Carter defeated Carl Sanders to become governor of Georgia.

Once he was elected governor, Carter largely returned to the progressive values he had promoted earlier in his career. He publicly called for an end to segregation, increased the number of Black officials in state government by 25 percent, and promoted education and prison reform. Carter’s signature accomplishment as governor was slashing and streamlining the enormous state bureaucracy into a lean and efficient machine. However, Carter showed disdain for the niceties of political decorum and alienated many traditional Democratic allies, with whom he might otherwise have worked closely.

1976 Presidential Campaign

Always forward-thinking, Carter carefully observed the national political currents of the 1970s. After the liberal George McGovern got pounded by Republican Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, Carter decided the Democrats needed a centrist figure to regain the presidency in 1976. When the Watergate scandal shattered American confidence in Washington politics, Carter further concluded that the next president would need to be an outsider. He thought he fit the bill on both counts.

Carter was one of 10 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, and at first, he was probably the least well-known. However, in a time of deep frustration with establishment politicians, Carter’s anonymity proved an advantage. He campaigned on such centrist themes as reducing government waste, balancing the budget, and increasing government assistance to the poor.

The centerpieces of Carter’s appeal were his outsider status and his integrity. “I’ll never tell a lie,” Carter famously declared. “I’ll never avoid a controversial issue.” Another of his pithy campaign slogans was “A Leader, For a Change.” These themes hit home with an electorate feeling betrayed by its own government during the Watergate scandal.

Carter secured the Democratic nomination to challenge the Republican incumbent Gerald Ford, Nixon's erstwhile vice president who had assumed the presidency when Nixon resigned in the aftermath of Watergate. Although Carter entered the race with a double-digit lead over the unexciting Ford, he made several gaffes that narrowed the polls. Most prominently, in an interview with Playboy, Carter admitted to committing adultery “in his heart” and made several other glib remarks about sex and infidelity that alienated many voters. Although the election turned out much closer than initially expected, Carter nevertheless won to become the 39th president of the United States of America.


Carter assumed the presidency in 1977 at a time of considerable optimism, initially enjoying sky-high approval ratings. Symbolizing his commitment to a new kind of leadership, after his inaugural address Carter got out of his limousine to walk to the White House amongst his supporters.

Carter’s main domestic priority involved energy policy. With oil prices rising, and in the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo, Carter believed it imperative to cure the United States of its dependence on foreign oil. Although Carter succeeded in decreasing foreign oil consumption by 8 percent and developing huge emergency stores of oil and natural gas, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 again drove up oil prices and led to long lines at gas stations, overshadowing Carter’s achievements.

Camp David Accords

Carter’s foreign policy centered around a promise to make human rights a central concern in the United State' relations with other countries. He suspended economic and military aid to Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua in protest of those regimes’ human rights abuses. But Carter’s most notable foreign policy achievement was his successful mediation of the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, leading to a historic peace treaty in which Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, and the two sides officially recognized each other's governments.

Despite these noteworthy achievements, Carter’s presidency was widely considered a failure. He had very poor relationships with Congress and the media, stifling his ability to enact legislation and effectively communicate his policies. In 1979, Carter delivered a disastrous speech, referred to as the “Crisis of Confidence” speech, in which he seemed to blame America's problems on the poor spirit of its people.

Several foreign policy blunders also contributed to Carter's loosening grip on the presidency. His secret negotiations to return the Panama Canal to Panama led many people to believe he was a weak leader who had “given away” the canal without securing necessary provisions for defending American interests.

Iran Hostage Crisis

Probably the biggest factor in Carter’s declining political fortunes, however, was the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In November 1979, radical Iranian students seized the United States Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage. Carter’s failure to negotiate the hostages’ release, followed by a badly botched rescue mission, made him look like an impotent leader who had been outmaneuvered by a group of radical students. The hostages were held for 444 days before finally being released on the day Carter left office in 1981.

Ronald Reagan, the former actor and governor of California, challenged Carter for the presidency in 1980. Reagan ran a smooth and effective campaign, simply asking voters, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Most were not; Reagan crushed Carter in the 1980 election, which was essentially a referendum on a failed presidency. As the New York Times put it, "On Election Day, Mr. Carter was the issue".

Humanitarian Work through The Carter Center

Despite a largely unsuccessful one-term presidency, Carter later rehabilitated his reputation through his humanitarian efforts after leaving the White House. He is now widely considered one of the greatest ex-presidents in American history.

He has worked extensively with Habitat for Humanity and founded The Carter Center in 1982 to promote human rights and alleviate suffering across the globe. In particular, Carter and his non-profit has worked effectively to develop community-based health care systems in Africa and Latin America, to oversee 114 elections in fledgling democracies as of March 2023, and to promote peace in the Middle East. The Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program has helped to nearly eradicate the parasitic disease among humans. According to the non-profit, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in Africa and Asia in 1986 compared to just 13 provisional cases worldwide in 2022.

In 2002, Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development". Delivering his Nobel Lecture in 2002, Carter concluded with words that can be seen as both his life mission and his call to action for future generations. "The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices", he said. "God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes—and we must". Because of his tireless work both before and since his presidency in support of equality, human rights and the alleviation of human suffering, Carter will be remembered as one of the nation’s great social activists.

Wife and Children

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were married for more than 77 years, longer than any other presidential couple in history, and celebrated their final anniversary together in July 2023. Jimmy also has 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. In 2015, the Carters' 28-year-old grandson Jeremy (from their son Jeff) died of a heart attack.

Jimmy Wins November 2, 1976.

The train before it was moved to Archery.

The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.

"If these sidewalks could talk" mural.

The Plains station. After our layover where some passengers browsed and bought items from the local stores, we reboarded the train.

In our coach was a picture of "Jimmy Carter Boyhood Home". We departed Plains then went on to Archery.

The countryside before we reached Archery, where I detrained.


Jimmy Carter's Boyhood Home.

The Earl and Lillian Carter home story board.

The living room.

Earl's bedroom.

Gloria's bedroom.

The dining room.

Household appliances.

The bathroom.

Jimmy Carter's bedroom.

The breakfast nook.

The kitchen.

Money on Trees.

Jimmy Carter Slept Here.

Always a reckoning.

Jimmy Carter's Boyhood Farm.

Welcome to Archery, Animals on the Farm and Safety in the Park.

From Here to Plains.

The outhouse.

Water unfit for human consumption.

The weather vane on the property.

After this last picture of the house, I returned to the train and walked the its interior.

Interior of Missouri-Kansas-Texas lounge-sleeper "J. Pinckney Henderson".

Windsor Hotel in "Americus".

Interior of "Wisconsin".

Interior of "Dearing". We then departed Archery for the journey back to Cordele.

The former Southeast Railcar shop in Newport which now specializes in chassis rebuildings.

Mill Creek.

The Georgia Southwestern track was underneath us before we stopped briefly in Americus.

The interchange track from the SAM Shortline to Georgia Southwestern Railroad.

Stone Mountain Railroad coach 1871, nee Long Island 2871, built by Pullman Standard in 1950.

Stone Mountain coach 1868, nee Long Island 2867, built by Pullman Standard in 1950.

The Georgia countryside.

An airplane and a hanger.

Chokee Creek.

More cypress trees in Lake Blackshear.

The US Highway 280 bridge across Lake Blackshear and the Flint River. We soon returned to Georgia Veterans State Park where our journey ended and the two of us drove back to the hotel. I went to Denny's for dinner as I wanted something simple while Elizabeth went to 16 East Bar and Grill with fellow Railroad Passenger Car Alliance and National Railway Historical Society friends. Upon my return, I worked on the story for most of the evening.