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Lost Carter portrait now at GSW library

Kim Fuller stands in the new library lobby with the portrait of James Earl Carter Sr., her grandfather, that she recently found and donated to the Georgia Southwestern State University library that was named after him 40 years ago. (Special photo)

Kim Fuller stands in the new library lobby with the portrait of James Earl Carter Sr., her grandfather, that she recently found and donated to the Georgia Southwestern State University library that was named after him 40 years ago. (Special photo)

AMERICUS — Earlier this year, the James Earl Carter Library of Georgia Southwestern State University received a new lobby and a special gift.

A portrait of the library’s name sake, James Earl Carter Sr., father of former President Jimmy Carter, has been donated by Carter Sr.’s granddaughter, Kim Fuller, and now hangs in the lobby.

Georgia Southwestern officials dedicated the library to the elder Carter on June 7, 1973. He was a Sumter County farmer, businessman and civic leader, as well as a representative of the General Assembly. Carter also served on the Sumter County Board of Education.

Jimmy Carter attended Georgia Southwestern in 1942 before embarking on a political career that included becoming the 76th governor of Georgia and the 39th U.S. president.

University officials say the James Earl Carter Library, which has been undergoing renovations since May that should be completed soon, has been an integral part of the Georgia Southwestern campus since it opened in summer 1971. The lobby size has increased, while new tiles, lights, bulletin boards, and a book drop box have been added.

The new doors are the most noticeable improvement. They are “designed to open automatically as someone approaches both the exit and entrance,” said Ru Story-Huffman, dean of library services. “They provide much easier access to the building and the increased lobby area will be an additional spot for students to sit and interact with each other.”

In addition, the library’s love seats and benches have been reupholstered. To accommodate the growing number of students, the library has also installed more computers and printers.

“The nicest thing in the lobby is the portrait, as it provides a tribute to Mr. Carter,” said Story-Huffman.

The portrait was painted by local artist Virginia “Ginny” Hodges in the 1970s for the Carter family. It was modeled after Carter’s official Georgia House portrait and for many years hung in Carter’s childhood home. In recent years, however, the portrait has passed many hands and was found in a local attic. When it was discovered, the portrait was given to Fuller, who chose to donate it to the library named for her grandfather.

“I thought that others should share in the portrait, so I donated it,” Fuller said. “I think it’s found its place … it needs to be here. He’d be happy.”

The library hosts several exhibitions to honor the Carter family. The Lillian Gordy Carter Picture Gallery is on display on the first floor, while a visual timeline of Jimmy Carter’s life and career can be found upstairs.