MISS LILLIAN CARTER – A Remarkable Mother, a remarkable woman

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BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photographer
Copyright © 2008

That Jimmy Carter pays tribute to his mother in his latest book, A Remarkable Mother should come as no surprise, because she was a remarkable woman. She was born in the south but she shared a spirit of equality that transcended racial prejudice of her time. And is there really any other word to describe someone who celebrated their 70th birthday a few days before leaving to go to India for a two year stint in the Peace Corp?

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Miss Lillian listens to a reporters question before Chester County (Pennsylvania) Democratic Party Dinner during the 1980 Presidential campaign
Photo by Bill Wilson © 2008

The thing that I remember about this press conference almost 30 years later is that when Miss Lillian walked into the room there were about five people from local newspapers in rural Pennsylvania waiting to ask her questions. She started out by saying, “I know that there are some of you in this room that are Republicans, so go ahead and ask me anything you want.”
Her legendary wit and quick repartee where a refreshing antidote to the Imperial presidency of Richard Nixon and the humble folksiness of the Ford era.

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President Carter signs books at Books Inc on Van Ness Avenue
Photo by Bill Wilson © 2008

Because he has authored numerous books President Carter has gotten the signing down to a well ordered efficient process.

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Photo by Bill Wilson © 2008

I discovered in reading part of the book while waiting in line that Miss Lillian and my grandmother shared something in common. During the Depression when people were out of work they would travel seeking odd jobs doing anything to earn the extra scrap of food. Like Miss Lillian, my Grandmother never turned away a person who asked for food. President Carter writes that when a neighbor responded that she was glad that they never stopped at her place Miss Lillian was intrigued. “The next time we had some vagrant visitors, Mama asked why they stopped at our house and not others. After some hesitation, one of them said, ‘Ma’am, we have a set of symbols that we use. The post on your mailbox is marked to say that you don’t turn people away or mistreat us.’” My grandparent’s farm in Pennsylvania must have had the same marks.

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Sentinel Photographer
Copyright © 2008

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photographer
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and Bay Area media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past four years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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