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Jimmy Carter's Youngest Child, His Only Daughter, Attended Public School That Was 'About to Close Down'

Junie Sihlangu
Feb 08, 2022
07:00 P.M.
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By the time Jimmy Carter became the president of the US, he and his wife only had one young child out of four left at home. Amy Carter attended a public school where she made a good name for herself.

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Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter welcomed four children in their happy marriage. The couple had three sons, Jack, James, Donnel, and daughter Amy Lynn Carter.

The presidential couple’s only daughter also happened to be the youngest of their respective offspring. When Jimmy became the President of the US in 1977, his sons were already adults.

A portrait of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on November 17, 1978, and their daughter Amy Carter with her cat Misty Malarky Ying Yang on August 15, 1977 | Photos: HUM Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

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She got to move in with her parents in the White House at age nine and spent part of her childhood growing up there. Little Amy received a lot of media attention.

ATTENDING PUBLIC SCHOOL

Jimmy’s daughter’s first day at school was on January 24, 1977, but she arrived late to Stevens Elementary School. Rosalynn explained to the press that they’d miscalculated how long it would take to get to the public school.

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 30, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia | Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

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Amy arrived with a Secret Service detail, and TV and newspaper reporters were also on-hand. A video was recorded of the little girl coming wearing a stocking cap and jeans as she passed reporters.

Juan Herron, a third-grader at the school then, recalled how the whole thing felt like the red carpet at the Grammy Awards. The first few weeks saw the school’s field trips and the cafeteria’s lunch menu covered by the media.

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Sightseers even came by in tour buses hoping to catch a glimpse of little Amy during recess. Jimmy’s daughter was followed around by two Secret Service agents all the time.

They even turned a second-floor closet next to Amy’s regular fourth-grade teacher, Verona Meeder’s classroom, into an office so agents could keep watch. However, the little girl was given some space in class.

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The Spanish teacher who taught an after-school program at the school, Rebecca Medrano, recalled how she wasn’t aware of the agents at first. She found the whole thing strange as she’d expected a high-security clearance to enter the school.

PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER AT ORDINARY SCHOOL

Meeder shared how Amy made everything feel normal because she did her school work and read books, which she kept at the corner of her desk without being prompted. She was described as a quiet and unassuming student.

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Medrano said Amy was normal and didn’t flaunt that she was the president’s daughter. That wasn’t important to her because she was more focused on being a child.

Rosalynn’s only daughter, described as bright and animated, got through her schoolwork so fast that teachers sometimes asked her to allow other students to answer questions first.

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Amy was an excellent motivator for the rest of her class. Meeder noted how the class was doing better at their work and was mostly on their best behavior due to Jimmy’s daughter being a part of their group.

She also managed to make friends easily, with some of them invited to the White House for slumber parties. The president’s daughter appeared to get along with everyone at the school, even the bullies.

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Herron got to study at the same school as Amy because he was an 8-year-old school safety patrol. In a June 1977 Washington Post article, he recalled one thing that stood out about the president’s daughter, stating:

“But nobody messes with Amy.”

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SCHOOL ALMOST CLOSED

Amy’s school had a unique “extended day” program that allowed it to stay open until late. Parents who worked late in nearby buildings could leave their children at the school early in the morning and pick them up as late as 6 p.m.

Jimmy’s daughter arrived at Stevens a few months after the program began. She stayed out late most days to attend extra classes, including computer lessons, photography, and Spanish.

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The program was created to try and attract more students; otherwise, the school would close down. With more parents wanting to take advantage of the pioneering program, enrollment increased.

What also brought more children to the school was that parents heard the president’s daughter was attending there. All these factors assisted in helping save the school from closure.

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ALL EYES ON AMY

Amy received much attention from the media for things besides her schooling because she was the first child to live in the White House since John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Her day-to-day life was also scrutinized.

One such incident reported in December 1977; was when 10-year-old Amy was said to have told a friend that she wanted a chain saw for Christmas. A manufacturer created an American flag-colored chain saw for the little girl.

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The White House spokesman at the time, Mary Hoyt, said she suspected the little girl’s confidante had heard wrong. Hoyt thought Jimmy’s daughter probably said she wanted a train set instead.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Amy [Carter] was a political activist and was arrested at a CIA recruitment protest.

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Another thing reported by the media was how the little girl was rescued from an elephant in May 1978. A Secret Service agent was slightly injured when he and another agent saved the child from a runaway elephant at Ethel Kennedy’s home.

In January 2006, Danny Miller wrote a HuffPost piece sharing how he believed children of presidents deserved to be left alone, especially minor ones. Miller described Amy as his “all-time favorite First Kid.”

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He shared that his favorite moment about her was when a reporter asked the little girl if she had a message for American children. Amy thought about it for a few moments, looked the reporter in the eyes, and simply said, “No.”

LIFE AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE

A July 2015 Business Insider article revealed what had become of Amy over the years. She had worked as an illustrator of a children’s book that her father wrote, “The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer.”

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In the 1980s and 1990s, Amy was a political activist and was arrested at a CIA recruitment protest. Later on, she received an art history Master’s degree from Tulane and started a family with computer consultant James Wentzel in Atlanta.

Jimmy didn’t give her away during her wedding ceremony because she felt she didn’t belong to anyone. With Wentzel, she had one child, then later remarried before having a second son, and now works at her parent’s Carter Center for human rights issues.

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