New honorary banners line Jimmy Carter Blvd. in Gwinnett

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Dozens of local and state leaders gathered Tuesday to unveil about 30 banners thanking former President Jimmy Carter on a busy thoroughfare that bears his name in Gwinnett County.

The Gateway85 Community Improvement District commissioned the banners soon after Carter, 98, entered home hospice care three months ago in Plains. Executive Director Emory Morsberger said it was the first event honoring Carter on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, which was named in November 1976, a week after he won the presidential election.

“We wanted to do it before he passed away and we succeeded,” Morsberger said at the event in the parking lot of the Global Mall, a South Asian shopping center.

Speakers included former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, whom Carter appointed ambassador to the United Nations; and Carter’s grandson Jason, chair of the Carter Center Board of Trustees.

The banners line a two-mile stretch of the nine-mile road, which runs through Norcross in southwestern Gwinnett. They say: “Thank you, President Carter.” Some of feature Carter smiling his trademark toothy grin, while others have an American flag design.

The speakers credited Carter for technology policy and a focus on global human rights that contributed to Jimmy Carter Boulevard’s development into a destination famous for immigrant-owned businesses and fiber optic tech companies. The busiest of eight roads around the world named for Carter, it is one of the most diverse sections of Gwinnett, itself the most diverse county in the Southeastern United States. More than 3,000 business are located on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, employing more than 47,000 people, according to Gateway85 CID.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

“I think this is a wonderful testament to my grandparents, to their family,” Jason Carter said. “We love it up here.”

The event was sprinkled with stories about Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, that only friends and family could tell. Jason Carter said they dry sandwich bags next to their sink and, after the White House, Rosalynn Carter served Henry Kissinger in free Tweety Bird glass from a fast-food restaurant.

“They are, first and foremost, regular folks from South Georgia,” Jason Carter said. “They’re just like all of y’all’s grandparents in that way. I mean, to the extent y’all’s grandparents are rednecks from South Georgia.”

Young visited the Carters at home a couple of weeks ago. He said Carter blended the values of rural Georgia with urban and national values.

“I never knew what Jimmy Carter might say,” Young said. “Every time he opened his mouth, I learned something new.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Former Gwinnett Commissioner Ray Gunnin, a friend of Carter’s, proposed the then-developing road’s name while Carter was campaigning, according to The Atlanta Journal.

The new boulevard linked several different roads. Lanes were being added and the name was scheduled to change in 1977, but Gwinnett fast-tracked it to be among the first to name a street for Carter. It was done so quickly that no dedication was held, Morsberger said.

Many business owners in 1976, most new to the booming corridor, complained of the expenses they incurred after the surprise name change, citing the thousands of dollars it would cost to change advertising and stationery. The owner of North Rockbridge Plaza joked about changing his shopping center’s name to Peanut Plaza, alluding to the Carter family peanut farm.

He didn’t change the name.

Mandi Albright contributed to this article.