Georgia’s Presidential Legacies Live On

ATLANTA — With intimate ties to three U.S. presidents, Georgia fulfills the historically curious and excites those who appreciate the great men of our nation.

The state’s effect on the nation through these men has proven to be the stuff movies are made of. Visit the destinations that shaped these presidents’ lives, and discover the state’s role in changing the history of America.

Just over 85 years ago, the slumbering, south Georgia town of Plains witnessed the birth of a boy who would eventually become one of the most lauded and respected men in the world. Today, a trip to Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm in Plains is an exciting and informative journey to another time.

Restored to the 1930’s time period, it documents the childhood and life of America’s 39th president through exhibits, videos, and more. As the Governor of Georgia, Carter proved himself a forward thinker and revealed his progressive stance on civil rights by appointing more women and minorities to his own staff, to major state policy boards and agencies, and to the judiciary than all of his predecessors combined. Also at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is the Rosalynn Carter Gallery, highlighting the life of the once-shy girl from Plains and giving visitors a glimpse into the presidency through the eyes of the First Lady.

After leaving office in 1981, Carter founded the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center through a partnership with Emory University. Visit the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, part of the center, and discover secrets of the only native Georgian ever elected president.

Open to the public daily, the museum includes photos and memorabilia from Carter’s presidency, an exact replica of the Oval Office, gifts received by the Carters while in the White House, and permanent exhibits of significant events during his life with timeless photographs and insightful interpretation.

Woodrow Wilson had strong ties to Georgia long before he was elected the 28th President of the United States. He spent many of his formative, childhood years in Augusta, practiced law as a young man in Atlanta, married his first wife in Savannah, and witnessed two of his three children born in Gainesville.

In his early days, Wilson’s father served as pastor at First Presbyterian Church in the east Georgia city of Augusta. For 10 of those years Wilson was raised at what is now 419 Seventh Street – the longest he ever lived in one place. Now a museum, The Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated “Save America’s Treasures” site.

The manse has been expertly preserved and is decorated with period artifacts, including 13 original pieces that were in the house during the Wilson occupancy. A fascinating look into how Georgia and the south shaped Wilson’s life and presidency, the house museum serves as an impressive must-see attraction, showcasing Augusta’s rich heritage and antebellum architecture.

Falling in between Carter and Wilson on a timeline is the only U.S. president to be elected to more than two terms: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt had a strong connection to Georgia during his later years, including his years as the 32nd president. He visited the state more than 40 times in two decades before he passed away at his Little White House in the southwest Georgia town of Warm Springs. Now a museum, the famous, 76 year old house has been preserved much as he left it. Visitors can tour Roosevelt’s home and enjoy a multitude of exhibits, including his collection of canes from around the world and his Fireside Chats playing over a 1930’s radio.

Also open for touring are the servants’ and guests’ quarters, the pool complex he swam in and a theater. While exploring the 11,000 square-foot museum, be sure to look for his 1938 hand-controlled Ford convertible.

Close to Roosevelt’s Little White House is the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, featuring a tour of the grounds and the “Whatever Happened to Polio?” exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian institute. Not too far away one will find Roosevelt’s favorite place to relax outdoors, Dowdell’s Knob.

Now part of Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, the largest state park in Georgia, the outcropping features the only statue of the president that exposes his leg braces. Dowdell’s Knob was one of the few places Roosevelt felt no need to hide his disability, and served as a place for him to entertain his closest friends using a grill that remains at the site to this day.

Warm Springs is a spectacular destination for everyone from history buffs to outdoorsmen. Surrounded by the rich presidential legacy of Roosevelt through museums, institutions, state parks and picnic locations, the town makes for an excellent weekend getaway. With over 60 specialty stores, historic buildings, scrumptious food and pleasant accommodations, Warm Springs offers something for everybody.

Carter, Wilson and Roosevelt all influenced, and were influenced by, Georgia. Their legendary accomplishments and historic greatness inspire and encourage to this day. In 2005, Home Box Office (HBO) filmed the movie Warm Springs in the town after which it is named, and received 16 Emmy nominations for their portrayal of Roosevelt’s Georgia connection. The state has also played a more recent role in presidential politics, hosting 2004’s G8 Summit on Sea Island. Check out the permanent exhibit dedicated to the summit on display at the A.W. Jones Heritage Center at the St. Simons Island Lighthouse.

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