GENDUSA COLUMN: An American President, a bank chairman, and me

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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It was the late 6os, and when my husband began a job teaching in Fayette County, Georgia, we moved to a new town under development called Peachtree City. The community included a Post Office attached to a bank, one small grocery, a café, and a handful of new homes.

I began working as the youngest teller at the bank with less than ten other employees. Floy Farr was the Bank President, a founding father of Peachtree City*, and in 1968 also Chairman of the State’s Finance Council for the Democratic Party. 

When Mr. Farr realized math was not my specialty, but people were, he appointed me the greeter. He also prayed one day that I might be able to balance my cash drawer. 

“Lynn, I have a lunch meeting with a gentleman from South Georgia. Please let me know when he arrives because I will be in my office until then.”  It was not unusual for Mr. Farr to receive dignitaries, politicians, CEOs, architects and farmers throughout the day.  

Mr. Farr’s guest was a bit late, but finally, a gentleman walked through the heavy glass doors to my window. “Hello,” he said with a friendly smile, “My name is Jimmy Carter, and I have a lunch appointment with Mr. Farr. “

“He is expecting you but is on the phone now.”  I continued, “I hear you are considering running for governor of Georgia. What do you do now?” 

“I’m a peanut farmer!” he laughed as he replied.

Mr. Carter must have read my mind because he described his credentials and achievements. “Whoa, so you must be pretty smart, hey?”  I responded with a red face.

When Mr. Farr heard the ensuing laughter, he decided to get the intelligent peanut farmer away from his over-friendly, borderline-brash employee. Once they retreated to his office, my main interest was preparing my sandwich in the back room. 

The room was a storage area located off a small bookkeeping area. Complete with a card table that held a coffee pot, paper cups, a loaf of white bread,and enough room to make a sandwich. There was a small fridge where we housed a few sodas, condiments and folks’ lunches. The only seating was a black vinyl and chrome loveseat, big enough for two, surrounded by stacked boxes of papers.

As I began slicing my one banana, Mr. Farr peered around the door. “Lynn, do you have enough lunch for two more folks?”  

“Yes, sir, I can share, but I thought the two of you would get fried chicken down at the café?” I questioned.

“Nope, we decided to stay here. Just slice the banana thin, and we can all eat lunch!” Mr. Farr stated with gusto while Jimmy nodded in agreement. 

I prepared the thinly sliced banana sandwiches, placed them on paper plates with doled-out chips, and proceeded to take my lunch to the teller station when I heard, “No, please stay and eat with us,” the two gentlemen insisted.”

“Lynn, let me show you my pride and joy.” Mr. Carter exclaimed as he stood to retrieve a wallet from his back pocket.  “Here she is, my baby daughter, Amy Lynn!” 

I sat cramped between the two men on the old loveseat as they talked politics, a future governor’s race, and finance.  With every idea they had, they asked a 20-year-old her opinion. Of course, I gave one, but I was still trying to figure out why I was involved.

When my regular 30-minute break was over, Mr. Farr insisted I stay until the three of us walked to the lobby over an hour later. I hugged the man from Plains, Georgia goodbye and began my return to the teller line when Mr. Farr stopped me.

“Lynn, watch Jimmy until you can no longer see him. Never forget this day because that man you see leaving is going to the top. And one day, you will tell your grandchildren how you shared a banana sandwich with a President.” 

I wrote President-Elect Carter a letter in 1976 recalling the day Mr. Farr insisted we share my lunch and his prediction as we watched him walk away. I ended the letter with, “If I had known you were going to be elected President, I would have fried a chicken!”

Of course, he responded with a note and an invitation to his Presidential inauguration because sometimes decent, God-loving, family men don’t fall prey to the charm of power. 

I didn’t have the money to travel to Washington, but today I have a story to tell my grandchildren about the kind, generous man whose humble character went to the top and far beyond. Plus, the insight of the remarkable, loving man who knew he would.  

*Today, over 38,000 people call Peachtree City, Georgia, home.

In appreciation to Walter Floy Farr 1912-2006 and James Earl Carter, Jr., our 39th U.S. President