AMERICUS, Ga. -- Lillian Carter, the beloved 'Miss Lillian' and matriarch of a peanut-growing family who inspired a son to become president of the United States, died of cancer Sunday. She was 85.
Former President Jimmy Carter and other family members were at her side when she died at the Americus-Sumter County Hospital.
Mrs. Carter had been in declining health for several months, suffering from cancer. She had undergone a recent masectomy and recently spent some time in the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalyn, and Mrs. Carter's other children - Billy Carter of Waycross, Ga., and Gloria Spann of Plains, Ga. -- had visited Mrs. Carter often during the week before her death. They were by her hospital bed when she passed away.
Besides her children, Mrs. Carter is survived by 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A spokesman for the former president said in Atlanta Sunday that Carter had issued no statement about the death of his mother.
Mrs. Carter had entered the hospital Tuesday, according to James R. Griffith, administrator of the hospital. Griffith said Mrs. Carter died shortly after 5 p.m.
'The president has been here since last Friday. He's been in and out during the week,' Griffith said.
A friend of the Carter family said after Mrs. Carter died, the former president 'obviously was very tired. He had had a long night and a long day. Obviously, the former president and his mother were very close.'
One of Mrs. Carter's other children, Ruth Carter Stapleton of Fayetteville, N.C., died earlier this fall of cancer.
Graveside services will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Lebanon Cemetery in Plains. The Rev. Fred Collins of Plains will officiate at the service. Hancock Funeral Home of Americus is in charge of the service.
Grandchildren Jack Carter, Chip Carter, Jeff Carter, Buddy Scott Stapleton and Michael Stapleton will serve as pallbearers at the funeral.
'I am a smalltown person,' the white-haired Mrs. Carter said after the defeat of her son in the 1980 presidential election. 'I keep the home fires burning. This is where I am happiest. And this is where I find peace -- peace of mind and peace of body.'
Mrs. Carter was considered to have liberal leanings by some residents in the area of her home town of Plains because of her concern for the welfare of non-white minorities.
At age 67, she volunteered for the Peace Corps, specifically requesting 'a black country,' and spent two years in India.
She frequently cared for black babies at a time 50 years ago when 'so many of my friends wouldn't even touch a black baby.'
A registered nurse in her younger days, she worked in family planning and in a doctor's office during her stay in India, returning home in 1968.
'They wouldn't allow you to give a nickel of American money but we had to give of ourselves,' said Mrs. Carter. 'That was what was so satisfying.'
Mrs. Carter grew up 20 miles from Plains in the tiny town of Richland. She came to Plains to finish her nurse's training and met her husband, James Earl Carter. She helped him start a peanut business, raised four children and did a little nursing for family and friends.