President Carter, born Oct. 1, 1924, celebrates his 85th birthday today. Congratulations to the best known Sunday school teacher in the world.

A decade ago I attended his 75th birthday party, the first event held in the then-newly renovated Rylander Theatre in Americus, Ga. The mostly-local gathering treated Sumter County’s most famous citizen to musical and spoken tributes.

In addition to local talent, however, white-shoe-wearing Pat Boone and Lynn “Rose Garden” Anderson sang. So did The Indigo Girls — Mrs. Carter’s choice for musical diversity.

Before the big celebration, President Carter met with the small press group that included little-knowns like me as well as longtime UPI correspondent Helen Thomas — who has harassed sitting presidents for decades — and TV newsman Sam Donaldson, who covered the Carter presidency for ABC.

Donaldson asked President Carter if he stilled jogged.

“No, but Rosie and I like to ride our bikes around Plains — and visit a neighborhood where mostly African American families live,” he replied. “We talk with the boys and girls there.”

“Well, how do those children react to you?” Thomas asked.

President Carter shrugged casually: “They just say, ‘Hi Mr. Jimmy.'”

Then his trademark smile emerged and he added: “Unless they are Baptists, then they might say, ‘Hi Brother Jimmy.'”

President and Mrs. Carter, both deacons at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, have been strong advocates of local church ministry and the best of Baptists’ commitments to personal faith, religious freedom and compassion for those in need.

God bless you, Brother Jimmy, on your 85th birthday. May you have many more.

PS: And thanks for the recent letter and generous gift to provide Baptists Today subscriptions to 25 of your church families. Your affirmation and support are appreciated.

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