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Star-spangled sites
For Presidents Day, visit these towns that influenced our country’s leaders

By Lynn Grisard Fullman
Published: Jan/Feb 2001

A statue in Plains recalls Jimmy Carter's broad smile and his peanut-farming roots./ Milton Fullman photo
The South has birthed or harbored several men who made their marks in history.

Tracking those men–and the places they embraced–makes an intriguing mission. Pack your car, your camera, your history books and head out to presidential preserves in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Clinton in Arkansas

President Bill Clinton has left his legacy on the world and his footprints in his home state of Arkansas. To trace the former president’s Arkansas roots necessitates a visit to Hope, the southwest Arkansas town where he lived until age 7.

Restored and opened to the public, Clinton’s original home is where he lived with his grandparents from 1946 to 1950. Arkansas and American flags fly from the front porch of the white, wood-frame house.

The Hope Visitor Center and Museum hold exhibits and videos on the town and Clinton’s connection.

Clinton and his family later moved to Hot Springs where one of his early boyhood homes, at 1011 Park Ave., today is a private residence. The Polar Bar, now Bailey’s Dairy Treat, was one of Clinton’s favorite places where he’d order a chili-cheeseburger with a locally produced Grapette.

In 1973, Clinton taught at the University of Arkansas Law School and began his political career in Fayetteville where he and Hillary were married.

The Arkansas towns tied to Clinton have developed a brochure detailing Clinton-related sites. For details, contact the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (1-800-844-4781 or 501-376-4781); Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce (1-800-766-4626 or 501-521-1710); Hot Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau (1-800-543-2284 or 501-321-2277) or Hope Visitor Center and Museum (1-800-223-4673).

Peanut farmer from Plains, Ga.

When a former peanut farmer became the nation’s 39th president, his hometown of Plains, Ga., was catapulted to visibility.

Before Jimmy Carter’s plunge into politics, the Southern city had been a quiet place. Determined to dissect the Southern-born president, the media and the curious immediately descended to see where he had lived and attended school and church.

The Plains High School (left) is a welcome center for the Carter National Historic Site. / Milton Fullman photo
Visitors come in hope of understanding–and maybe glimpsing–the former president and first lady who returned to Plains after leaving the White House in 1981.

Plains remains as Carter describes in his book, “Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life.” Carter wrote that the city “is without hustle and bustle, where one can amble among neighbors who would have been just as friendly to us if we had never done anything other than grow peanuts for a living.”

Plains High School is the museum and welcome center for the Carter National Historic Site, which includes the Carters’ home (not open to the public), his boyhood farm, school and the railroad depot, which served as headquarters for his 1976 presidential campaign.

For information, call the National Park Service (912-824-4104) or visit or

Roosevelt’s Little White House in Georgia

While governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt was lured to Warm Springs, Ga., by warm waters reputed to bring relief to polio victims.

Impressed by the comforting power of the waters and the hamlet 70 miles south of Atlanta, Roosevelt in 1932 built the only home he would ever own. A dozen years later, during his 41st visit to Warm Springs, Roosevelt died in the house.

The modest six-room Little White House, which cost $8,738.14, remains in sharp contrast to his three-story, 30-plus-room New York mansion. Visitors see the bedroom where the president slept and the living-dining room where he suffered a fatal stroke as an artist painted his portrait. His unfinished portrait remains in the room.

An adjacent museum holds items such as Roosevelt’s walking canes, his wheelchair, hat, photos and gifts given to him by the Allied Nations.

The Little White House is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. For information, call the Little White House (706-655-5870); Warm Springs Welcome Center (1-800-337-1927) or visit

Jefferson Davis’ final home

With its stately white columns, wide porches and canopy of moss-draped trees, Beauvoir was the final home of the Confederacy’s only president, Jefferson Davis.

At a friend’s invitation, Davis moved to Beauvoir in 1877 to write his long-overdue book. He lived first in an estate cottage, paying for renovations and arranging to pay board.

Two years later, Davis bought the Biloxi property where he lived until his death in 1889. His widow sold the estate’s central portion to the Mississippi Division, United Sons of Confederate Veterans, who used it as a memorial to Davis and as a home for Confederate veterans. The operation today includes a Confederate Museum, Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier and Presidential Library focusing on Davis and Southern history.

Beauvoir opens daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, at 9 a.m. Closing is at 5 p.m. March through October and at 4 p.m. November through February. For information, call Beauvoir (1-800-570-3818 or 228-388-9074) or visit online at

Home of Old Hickory

Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, is unique among early presidential sites because almost all of the furnishings are original to the home.

At Jackson’s Tennessee home just outside of Nashville, costumed interpreters share anecdotes of the seventh president, who, with his wife, Rachel, bought the property in 1804. In 1819, Jackson began construction of the two-story, brick federal home.

Rachel died in December 1828, shortly after her husband was elected president. Jackson’s son, daughter-in-law and children lived with him in the mansion.

Following a devastating fire, the young couple oversaw the home’s transformation into a Greek Revival structure with six, two-story columns. Furniture was bought in Philadelphia.

Jackson retired to The Hermitage in 1837 and lived his final eight years there, surrounded by family, directing the farm operation and welcoming leaders such as Alamo-hero Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk, who sought Jackson’s help to become president.

Tours include a film about Jackson’s personal, military and political life plus visits to his garden, tomb, family cemetery, a Confederate cemetery, the cabins where the Jacksons first lived, the home of Jackson’s secretary and nephew, Old Hermitage Church and several outbuildings.

The Hermitage is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and the third week in January. For information call The Hermitage (615-889-2941) or visit

Lynn Grisard Fullman is a contributor from Birmingham, Ala.

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