Jimmy Carter, 3 months into hospice, is aware of tributes, enjoying ice cream
Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Three months after entering end-of-life care at home, former President Jimmy Carter remains in good spirits as he visits with family, follows public discussion of his legacy and receives updates on The Carter Center’s humanitarian work around the world, his grandson says. He’s even enjoying regular servings of ice cream.
“They’re just meeting with family right now, but they’re doing it in the best possible way: the two of them together at home,” Jason Carter said of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, now 98 and 95 years old.
“They’ve been together 70-plus years. They also know that they’re not in charge,” the younger Carter said Tuesday in a brief interview. “Their faith is really grounding in this moment. In that way, it’s as good as it can be.”
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The longest-lived U.S. president, Jimmy Carter announced in February that after a series of brief hospital stays, he would forgo further medical intervention and spend the remainder of his life in the same modest, one-story house in Plains where they lived when he was first elected to the state Senate in 1962. No illness was disclosed.
The hospice care announcement prompted ongoing tributes and media attention on his 1977-81 presidency and the global humanitarian work the couple has done since co-founding The Carter Center in 1982.
“That’s been one of the blessings of the last couple of months,” Jason Carter said after speaking Tuesday at an event honoring his grandfather. “He is certainly getting to see the outpouring and it’s been gratifying to him for sure.”
The former president also gets updates on The Carter Center’s Guinea worm eradication program, launched in the mid-1980s when millions of people suffered from the parasite spread by unclean drinking water. Last year, there were fewer than two dozen cases worldwide.
And in less serious moments, he also continues to enjoy peanut butter ice cream, his preferred flavor, in keeping with his political brand as a peanut farmer, his grandson said.
Andrew Young, who served as Carter’s U.N. Ambassador, told the AP that he too visited the Carters “a few weeks back” and was “very pleased we could laugh and joke about old times.”
Young and Jason Carter joined other friends and admirers Tuesday at a celebration of the former president along Jimmy Carter Boulevard in suburban Norcross, just northeast of Atlanta. Young said the setting — in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse suburban swaths in America — reflected the former president’s broader legacy as someone who pursued peace, conflict resolution and racial equity.
When the almost 10-mile stretch of highway in Gwinnett County was renamed in 1976 — the year he was elected president — the small towns and bedroom communities on the edge of metropolitan Atlanta were only beginning to boom. Now, Gwinnett alone has a population of about 1 million people, and Jimmy Carter Boulevard is thriving, with many businesses owned by Black proprietors, immigrants or first-generation Americans.
Young, a top aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, said Carter began as a white politician from south Georgia in the days of Jim Crow segregation, but he proved his values were different.
As governor and president, Carter believed “that the world can come to Georgia and show everybody how to live together,” Young said.
Now, Georgia “looks like the whole world,” said Young, 91.
Nicole Love Hendrickson, elected in 2020 as the first Black chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, praised Carter as “a man with an exceptional regard for the humanity of others.”
Alluding to Carter’s landslide re-election defeat, Young said he has personally relished seeing historians and others finding success stories as they reassess Carter’s presidency — ceding control of the Panama Canal, developing a national energy strategy, engaging more in Africa than any U.S. president had. Such achievements were either unpopular at the time or overshadowed by Carter’s inability to corral inflation, tame energy crises or free the American hostages in Iran before the 1980 election.
“I told him, ‘you know, it took them over 50 years to appreciate President Lincoln. It may take that long to appreciate you,’” Young said.
“Nobody was thinking about the Panama Canal. Nobody would have thought about bringing Egypt and Israel together. I mean, I was thinking about trying to do something in Africa, but nobody else in Washington was, and he did. He’s always had an idea about everything.”
Still, when Jason Carter addressed his grandparents’ admirers Tuesday, he argued against thinking about them like global celebrities.
“They’re just like all of y’all’s grandparents — I mean, to the extent y’all’s grandparents are rednecks from south Georgia,” he said to laughter. “If you go down there even today, next to their sink they have a little rack where they dry Ziplock bags.”
Most remarkable, Jason Carter said, is the fact such a gathering occurred with his grandfather still living.
“We did think that when he went into hospice it was very close to the end,” he told attendees. “Now, I’m just going to tell you, he’s going to be 99 in October.”