Remembering Rosalynn Carter’s first date with the future president

PLAINS, Ga. — The marriage of former President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter is one of America’s greatest love stories.

The couple met at a young age, dated and got married. Their union lasted more than seven decades until her death on Sunday.

For their first date 78 years ago, Eleanor Rosalynn Smith and Jimmy Carter went to the movies in Americus.

Over its 102 years, The Rylander Theatre has become well-known for what locals call “The” first date.

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Lifelong resident Brenda Davis told Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen that her family and most of Plains know the love story well.

“It’s beautiful, just beautiful,” Davis said.

“It’s a local legend here. People talk about it,” Anthony Davis echoed.

Jimmy Carter was 20 at the time and home from the Naval Academy when he and Rosalynn Smith, then just a 17-year-old freshman at Georgia Southwestern College, went to the Rylander together.


The story goes on to say that when Jimmy Carter got home that night, he told his mother, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” And a year later, he did.

The Rylander looks much like it did in 1945, but the theatre is now named the Jimmy Carter Auditorium. The former president’s handprints are in the sidewalk out front, just a few hands down from Mrs. Carter.

“Do you think he held her hand?” Petersen asked Brenda Davis. “Yes.  Of course!” Brenda said.

They’re not sure about the name of the film the future Carters watched during that first date.  Around the Rylander, they like to think it was a love story.

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