Video and memories: Former WALB photographer details his time covering Jimmy Carter

Video and memories: Former WALB photographer details his time covering Jimmy Carter
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 5:15 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - As WALB continues to bring you coverage of former President Jimmy Carter, WALB’s Jim Wallace sat down with a former chief photographer who covered Carter’s career from governor through the White House. Here’s that interview.

I’m joined now by the former chief photographer for WALB News 10, Sam Smith, and Sam was a person who, with WALB, covered Jimmy Carter as governor and as president.

So you saw a lot of history with Jimmy Carter. What can you, what do you remember now as you look back at these days?

“Jim, the thing I remember the most is what a down to Earth person he was,” Smith said. “And I just told you a little story about sitting on a bench in the downtown Plains, beautiful downtown Plains. And just chatting reporter and myself with Jimmy. And just shooting the breeze and enjoying each other’s company. And that I think he was contemplating running for president then so, and that was while he was governor. So that’s what my one of my first recollections of Jimmy Carter. You brought up the softball games a while ago that the press played against the Secret Service. I think it was. Yeah, I got in on a few of those. And I actually pitched to Jimmy Carter and he didn’t get a hit off of me by the way so.”

Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith
Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith(Source: WALB)

Oh, you can remember that one now.

“It didn’t last long. When he was well, he was the president. Or when he was running for president. I went to work for NBC. I took two weeks vacation from here and went to work for NBC,” Smith said. “And that was my introduction to actions to videotape, too, because we were using 16-millimeter film. So and one of the things I remember about that is that when he would go somewhere, the Secret Service would have, back then, station wagon and one pool camera, NBC or CBS or whatever would be the pool camera. And one time I was a pool camera guy and I was standing on the tailgate of the station wagon and a Secret Service station. Was inside there and he was holding on to my ankles and I had the camera braced up top of the car and we were going down the road about 80 miles. Now we’re just going to the airport and of course, that was, you know, if something. While he was in transit or something, then we have it on tape. So that was another fond memory. Of being scared to death with the wind in my face. I don’t think they’d let you do that nowadays.”

No, they don’t. Things were a little more a little more simple back then, a little more straightforward, I guess than today. As far as coverage of him.

Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith.
Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith. (Source: WALB)

“Another event that took place around Carter was, and you probably remember this was when the Klan had a rally,” Smith said. “And Plains, and they had a platform set up where the speakers were, and there was a pretty good crowd. Most of the crowd were people who were just visiting Plains, you know, from everywhere. But anyway, at some point in time, some guy ran his car through the platform, not platform down and went through what most with the media was in the front of the platform. It missed me by yeah, much with, thank goodness. It yanked the mic(rophone) cable out of my camera. But I kept shooting and the George State Patrol was all over the guy in the car. And they got him and took him off. And there was a lot of people hurt there that caused a sports car and it was hitting people right along the knees. But luckily nobody was injured seriously. A lot of people were crippled for a while, but but, ike I say, nobody was hurt as you.”

Look back right now. The legacy of Jimmy Carter, you’ve got to witness him during the presidential days here in South Georgia and everybody in South Georgia was very proud to have a native son as president. As you look back right now. What are your thoughts?

“I think he was a good president. Things have changed an awful lot since he was president, and the things that he did while he was president turned out good. He tried to help a lot of people And you are, he just was a people president, I guess you might call him.”

Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith (right).
Photo of former WALB Chief Photographer Sam Smith (right). (Source: WALB)

Yeah. And you were one of the people who brought that to everyone on their TV’s that night.

“Right,” Smith said. “We did a story called Georgians in the White House. And you have. A picture some pictures of that, I think, but. He was not there at the time when we were in Washington, DC at the White House, but we covered several of the people there. You missing the press secretary and there was a guy from Camilla. I forget his name. That was up there and there was probably 6-8 Georgians that were on his staff in the White House. So that was quite interesting.”

Sam Smith, the former chief photographer of WALB, covered President Carter when he was governor and president here for South Georgia and still remembers those days very well. We appreciate you taking time to tell us about your thoughts.