President Carter today declared Alabama a major disaster area because of "extensive public and private property damage" from tornadoes and severe flooding earlier this week.
That declaration, making available federal aid, including temporary housing, disaster unemployment assistance and low-interest loans, was almost the only item of business in a busy but very related and very private day for the President.
He left his son Jack's three-bedroom, one-story home at 7 a.m. to visit the construction site where Jack, 29, an attorney, is starting a new soybean and corn processing and storage business, the Gordon County Grain Co., Inc.
After posing for a photograph, Carter played tennis on the courts at Lancelot Fram, which belongs to Office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance, visited Jack's wife's parents, state Sen. and Mrs. Beverly Langford, and went fishing in a private lake belonging to one of Lance's friends.
This afternoon the Carter family planned a cookout at the lake.
There were predictions that this north Georgia town of 6,000, ten times the size of Plains, would be inundated by up to 60,000 tourists because of the President's visit. But that has not happen, although there are occasional traffic jams on the narrow Dews Pond Road, which runs within half a mile of Jack Carter's house.
"Welcome President Carter" signs are in almost every window of Calhoun's small downtown, and many residents are taking the visit with a great deal of humor, like the store owner whose sign read, "Welcome President Who?"
A number of citizens who went downtown Friday just to catch a glimpse of the President complained that the motorcade went by so fast they couldn't even tell which car he was in.
Calhoun Mayor Bill Burdette said no formal civic welcoming ceremonies were held because the White House had not indicated they would be appropriate. But there were some who looked ahead to benefits the visit might have for Calhoun.
"The President's coming will really put Calhoun on the map," said Gordon County Extension Chairman Jack Dyer.
"Maybe now we'll sell some peanuts," said merchant Terry Miller.
Calhoun is already on the map. Two miles to the northeast is a place called New Echota, now a historical landmark, the last capital of the Cherokee Nation before the Cherokees were forced to march west over the "trail of Tears" to Oklahoma in 1838-39.
A good portion of the 200-acre landmark site is under water today, flooded by the same storm that hit Alabama and caused the crash of a Southern Airlines jet near Atlanta Monday afternoon, killing 70.
New Echota is the place where, in 1821, an Indian named Sequoyah gave his people their first alphabet, representing 85 sounds of the Cherokee language and allowing an Indian language to be written and read for the first time.
One result of that was a newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, which, a Bicentennial history of Gordon County notes, was "the first newspaper not only in Indian history, but in all of north Georgia, and the only one distributed by a nation at public expense, this having been done by the Cherokee government."
Carter has visited Calhoun before, but never as President. Harold Summerville, a local teacher, remembers his coming to campaign during his successful race for the governor's office. Other residents say he has been to services at Calhoun's first Baptist Church.
The President has not been here, however, since his son Jack married Judy Langford three years ago. They have a 20-month old son, Jason, Carter's first grandchild.
Sunday contains the only public event on his official schedule, Easter services at First Baptist Church. He is scheduled to return to Washington Sunday afternoon.