By Hannah E. Jones

Last week, elected officials, business leaders and Gwinnett County residents gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of former President Jimmy Carter and his local namesake, Jimmy Carter Boulevard. 

The program was hosted by Gateway85, a Community Improvement District that covers more than 3,000 businesses employing about 47,400 workers. Focused on the 14-square mile district along the I-85 corridor, Gateway85 helps improve local mobility, accessibility, security and beauty of the area.

Emory Morsberger and Andrew Young. (Photo courtesy of Gateway85.)

Led by Executive Director Emory Morsberger, the event featured speakers who highlighted the importance of Carter’s presidency and his efforts after leaving the White House. They also spoke to the significant economic impact the Boulevard has had within the county. 

The program allowed visitors to honor Carter as he nears the end of his life. After a series of hospital stays, Carter has opted to spend the remainder of his life in his Plains, Ga., home with his wife Rosalynn, family and friends. Each visitor received a package of peanuts, harkening back to Carter’s roots growing up on a peanut farm.

The program speakers included: 

  • Andrew Young, former U.N. Ambassador and Civil Rights leader 
  • Jason Carter, grandson and Chairman at The Carter Center
  • Craig Newton, City of Norcross Mayor
  • Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International
  • Nicole Love Hendrickson, Chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Commission
  • Shiv Aggarwal, Gateway85 Chair and owner of Global Mall
  • Elliott Brack, founder of the Gwinnett Forum
  • Louise Radloff, resident
  • Max Melendez, OFS representative

Young started the program by reflecting on his professional and personal relationship with Carter, who became a lifelong close friend, and the admiration and respect that he has for the former president.

“He devoted his life to his family, his community, the Bible and the Constitution of the United States,” Young said. “Father, we don’t know where he came from [and] we don’t know how he got here, but we sure thank you for sending him to us.”

Young went on to say: “I learned from Jimmy Carter that problems are for solving and the harder the problem, the more people you have to pull together, the deeper you have to dig and the more visionary and promising is the outcome.”

The only president to call Georgia home, Carter’s legacy looms around the state and country. A champion for service, Carter and Rosalynn have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for over 35 years. In that time, the two have worked on nearly 4,400 homes in 14 countries. 

His humanitarian efforts don’t stop there. Since 1986, The Carter Center has led an international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease. That year, the disease impacted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in Africa and Asia and in 2022, there was a record-low of only 13 human cases.

The Carter Center has peace and health programs in around 40 countries, primarily those in extreme poverty. Their grandson, Jason, said that these efforts are a testament to their integrity as political leaders and their character as people.

“[Jimmy and Rosalynn] are in the perfect place right now because they’re together. They’ve been together for 70-plus years and they’re at home in the place that they love,” Jason Carter said. (Photo courtesy of Gateway85.)

“‘Love’ is really [a word] that defines their personal relationship, but also the way they approach this world,” Jason said. 

He continued: “[Guinea worm disease] was not [reduced] with medicine; it was done by educating person-to-person. It’s a disease that was eradicated with respect, connection and friendship. To me, that sums up the way that my grandparents lived their lives. It also really sums up this community.” 

Speakers drew a strong connection between Carter’s values and the thriving, diverse space that surrounds the boulevard.

Formerly called Norcross Tucker Road, the street was renamed Jimmy Carter Boulevard in 1976, just before Carter won his presidency. The year before, Gwinnett County built a connector from Rockbridge Road to Mountain Industrial Boulevard at U.S. Highway 29, creating the complete 9.1-mile boulevard. 

Since then, the boulevard’s footprint on the county and state has only grown. Today, the CID area has an economic impact of $27.5 billion. Additionally, property value has gone up 54 percent since 2010. It’s also diverse, with one-quarter of Gwinnett County’s residents coming from another country, including South and Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba, the Middle East, Africa and South and Central Asia.

“As we pay tribute to Jimmy Carter, we celebrate a life dedicated to service [and] a legacy that continues to inspire,” Mayor Newton said. “Thank you, President Carter, for showing us the very best of what leadership in its most humble form could be. Thank you, President Carter, as your story reminds us, that true leadership is not about personal glory; it’s about lifting others up, standing up for justice and working tirelessly for a better world.”

If you’re interested in watching the program in full, click here to check out the livestream.

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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1 Comment

  1. Nobody has done more to promote peace and justice in the world. You are my favorite US president Mr. Carter. Right now I am reading your fascinating book “Palestine; Peace Not Apartheid” and find it wonderfully insightful and informative. God bless you sir.

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