The state of Georgia may not be the one that immediately comes to mind when you think of the stomping grounds of past presidents, but it is. Many remember peanut farmer Jimmy Carter who rose to fame as President of the United States in 1976, but others have deep ties to the area. History buffs should plan their own trip around Georgia to see where past great leaders have walked before the next election!
President Woodrow Wilson, 28th
Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. His father was a Presbyterian minister, which brought the family to Augusta, Georgia during the American Civil War. This would greatly affect his life, even when they moved away in 1870. He later lived in Reconstruction-era North and South Carolinas before attending school. He studied law and worked as a lecturer before entering politics. In 1910, he was elected as the governor of New Jersey, which paved the way for his presidential campaign in 1912. He served two terms and is perhaps most well-known for establishing the Federal Reserve Banks, antitrust legislation, and his peace efforts during World War I.
Visitors to Augusta can see The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, which was built in 1859 as the home for the Wilsons, whose patriarch was the pastor of the adjacent church. It was here that he saw firsthand the damage done during the Civil War and the terrible condition of soldiers suffering from their injuries. The home was purchased in 1991 before it could be demolished and has been a museum since 2001. Inside, you can see furniture like the family might have owned during their time here. Watch the short film on his life before taking a tour of the home.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd
Perhaps one of the most beloved presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt served an astounding four terms in office. He came from a prestigious family in New York and later went on to attend Harvard. During this time, he worked on his fifth cousin Theodore’s opponent’s campaign when he became acquainted with future wife Eleanor. He ran for New York State Senate, which gave him his first taste of political life before running for president in 1932. First diagnosed with polio in 1921, the disease would affect him for the rest of his life, but many didn’t know of his condition because of the lack of photos and his specially built car. He is known best for his “fireside chats,” the New Deal work programs, and for his response to Pearl Harbor.
Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute, Warm Springs
Roosevelt was traveling in Canada when he learned of his polio diagnosis. In 1926, he purchased a resort in rural Warm Springs, Georgia, one of the many natural springs throughout the state. He founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation for the treatment of polio patients. Here he would swim with other afflicted people to help treat their bodies. The pools themselves are no longer open to the public but instead have displays on what Roosevelt’s time there was like and about the warm springs themselves.
Roosevelt’s Little White House, Warm Springs
When in Warm Springs, he stayed at the Little White House, a simple white cottage near the rehabilitation center. He had quarters for visitors and the secret service, who accompanied him at all times. During his time here, he got to know the farmers affected by the Great Depression and it impacted many of his policies. In 1945, Roosevelt came to the Little White House to rest before a United Nations appearance. He was getting his portrait painted, surrounded by cousins and friends. He had a brain hemorrhage and died later that day. The staff at his home stopped the clocks and kept the interior of the modest retreat how it was when he was there.
The Warm Springs Historic Site includes the visitor’s center, which details aspects of Roosevelt’s early life as well as items collected from his years in Georgia. You can also see the unfinished portrait of FDR before touring his home. Admission also grants you entry into the historic pools.
President Jimmy Carter, 39th
Most of the state’s presidential landmarks surround Jimmy Carter, Georgia’s modern president. Carter grew up in rural south Georgia to a family of peanut farmers. His family benefited from New Deal programs and he later joined the United States Navy. He married hometown sweetheart Rosalynn and together they traveled throughout the United States and Asia to various bases. After his service, the couple moved home and lived in public housing after his father’s death and settlement of debts. He then continued the family’s peanut business and grew it to a thriving enterprise. He ran for Georgia state senator in 1963, starting the road to the presidency. His term is known for his Civil Rights platform, the signature of the Camp David Peace Accords, and the Iran hostage crisis. But perhaps he is best known for his post-presidency work, which includes establishing the Carter Center, a human rights organization, and writing multiple books.
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, Plains
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is located in Carter’s former high school. Here you’ll find displays on not just Carter’s early life, but also Plains as a whole. You’ll find items from Carter’s political life, including campaign buttons, as well as the peanuts that made him famous.
Jimmy Carter Boyhood Home, Plains
Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm is a short drive away and was owned by Earl Carter from the late 1920s to 40s. Jimmy Carter lived here until he left for college. The farm has been restored to how it would have looked during his early life, including the house, blacksmith shop, stables, and other outbuildings.
Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains
One of the most unique experiences visitors can have in Plains is to attend Sunday school at the Carters church, where Carter himself often teaches the lessons. The dates of his lessons are regularly posted on their website and he makes appearances around town for occasions like President’s Day.
Other locations around Plains are the Plains Train Depot, a display on the campaign process and Carter’s campaign headquarters, the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, and the Carter Private Residence and Compound, which is not open to public but can be seen from the road.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta is where the Carters split their time. The library and museum have even more of Carter’s artifacts, including his Navy uniform, and regularly changing temporary exhibits. It’s here that the Carter Center is based and where he often appears for book signings and speaking engagements.