The Carters’ life in Plains, a tiny town in the Georgia farm country, in some ways has been a surreal existence, as the town became encased in amber, its identity intertwined with that of the Carters, after they returned from Washington. Plains High School is now a museum to the Carters’ life and work. His brother Billy’s service station is a museum, too. Their small brick home on Woodland Drive has been fortified by the Secret Service with guard booths and high fencing, making for a conspicuous presence on Main Street.
They lacked the level of wealth that other presidents accrued after leaving office. They had made money as landowners and from the old family business, and also received the pension paid by the federal government to former presidents, now $221,400 a year.
But their life in Plains has been a comfortable one.
“We are treated here just like we belong here,” Mr. Carter said of his neighbors.
“In Plains,” Mrs. Carter added, “everybody that Jimmy’s not kin to, I’m kin to — that’s just about true. It’s just about home. No matter where we go, I’m always ready to go home.”
As they’ve grown older, the Carters have been known for their endurance.
Mr. Carter survived cancer. In 2019, he had a black eye and needed 14 stitches after a fall, but he still showed up to help build houses in Nashville for Habitat for Humanity. Not long after, he fractured his pelvis. Despite pleas from his family and staff to cancel, he nonetheless perched himself before the congregation at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains for one of the Sunday school classes he taught for years, drawing crowds that traveled there from around the world and lined up before sunrise for a chance to get inside.
But aging is inescapable. He has now handed over Sunday school duties to his niece. Their mobility is limited; Mrs. Carter gets around a bit more easily than he does. But sitting together in their living room as the sunlight flooded through a large front window, the Carters said that their connection to each other had evolved and strengthened.
“I know for my sake,” Mr. Carter said, “it’s been the best thing I’ve ever had happen to me — marrying Rosalynn and living together for so long, growing to know each other more and more intimately every day in married life.”
His hand drifted over to hers.
“I’ve been very happy,” he said, letting out a little laugh, “and I love her more now than I did to begin with — which is saying a lot, because I loved her a lot.”