At small Georgia church, ex-president still a draw

Maranatha Baptist
With its aging storefronts and small train depot, its graceful pecan trees and clipped fields of peanuts, cotton and hay, peace still seems possible in the tiny town of Plains, Georgia.

And nowhere is that peace protected more fiercely than at Maranatha Baptist Church, where former President Jimmy Carter teaches adult Sunday school class two or three Sundays every month.

Jan Williams, who taught Amy Carter when she was in fourth grade, is the head peacekeeper at the simple country church set in a grove of pecan trees. At 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Williams— known universally as “Miss Jan”—steps out of the church’s front doors and encounters a line of visitors.

“Are you a member of the Secret Service?” a woman in the line asked, noting the men wearing earpieces who stepped out behind her. “No, I’m Jan Williams. I’m in charge,” Williams said. “They say I’m too dangerous to carry a loaded gun.”


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