Bessie Lillian Gordy Carter was the mother of the 39th President of the United States, James “Jimmy” Carter. She was born August 15, 1898, in Richland, Georgia. She began her first job working in the Richland post office. In 1920 she left Richland for a career as a nurse. She had dreamed of being a nurse and when she was accepted as a trainee at the Wise Sanitarium, the 22-year-old Miss Gordy moved to Plains. Wise Sanitarium was an accredited training school for nurses. It was operated by the hospital and offered nearby boarding for trainees from 1917 through 1936.
Lillian met Earl Carter, who was a successful business man in Plains. When Lillian was only six months away from receiving her registered nursing degree, Earl asked her to marry him. She agreed, and the two planned to be married after her training was complete. She finished her nurses training at Grady Hospital in Atlanta and then returned to Plains. On September 26, 1923, at Plains Baptist Church, Lillian and Earl were married.
Her career as a nurse began when most women did not pursue a career until marriage. However, Lillian was free spirited and had a passion for nursing. She would work long hours at the hospital and visit those in the community who could not afford medical attention, then return home and complete her duties as wife and mother.
At the age of 68, Lillian decided to join the Peace Corp. She, once again, used her nursing skills to help those less fortunate in India.
Lillian Carter was an inspiration to many. She did not let age or public opinion restrict her scope of fulfilling the needs of others.
Included in the President’s first published collection of poems, is a poem entitled:
She would nurse and when they
wouldn’t pay, she would still be
She loved to laugh and often
laughed alone, but didn’t seem to
When she wept not many tears
would fall. She never had learned
She died and left us all behind.
What will be do now?
— Jimmy Carter