Billy Carter Service Station Museum recalls extraordinary time of ordinary man
PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — The famous south Georgia service station and watering hole owned by former President Jimmy Carter’s brother has come back to life.
With virtually everything — except the pumps out front — renovated, the Billy Carter Service Station Museum opened Saturday boasting displays of clothing and other memorabilia reflecting the First Brother’s life and the station’s history.
“Well, I think all of you know Billy Carter was the one that put me on the map,” the former president said to a crowd of about 300 gathered for the grand opening of the museum.
The station became an icon during Carter’s presidential campaign and throughout his four years in office. Countless interviews were conducted on site, and international press used it as a staging area while working on location when the president was back home in Plains. And locals were like members of a club that dropped by to discuss topics of the day or maybe just gossip.
“I’d love to have been a fly on the wall,” said Sybil Carter, widow of Billy Carter. “But it was a sacred place, and what happened at the station stayed at the station.”
The station took two years of planning and eight months of rummaging through Billy Carter’s possessions.
The idea came up during a board meeting of the Plains Better Hometown Program — of which Jimmy Carter is a member. He suggested a museum and backed up his idea with a personal donation of $50,000 to get the project started.
With almost $200,000 of private money raised, the museum is full of dated memorabilia, including clothes, photos and various family documents, and of course, Billy Beer. The brew was a whimsical venture by Billy Carter to capitalize on his new found fame as brother to the president.
The Carter family hopes the museum will expose all the facets of Billy Carter’s life, not just the simple, beer-guzzling character that often showed up in the media.
“Mother always believed — and she convinced the rest of us — that Billy was the most brilliant member of the family,” Jimmy Carter told the crowd at the museum. “And I don’t think anybody would doubt that.”
Published in The Messenger 5.5.08