Jimmy Carter’s ‘Howay the lads’ message exposed as ex-President misses inauguration

Jimmy Carter visits Newcastle during 1977 trip to the UK

Former Democratic President Carter will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration today. It will be the first time that the 96-year-old and his wife, Rosalynn, 93, will have missed the ceremonies since Mr Carter was sworn in as President in 1977. A spokesperson at The Carter Centre – a not-for-profit human rights organisation – said the two have sent Mr Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris their “best wishes” and “look forward to a successful administration”.

Mr Biden was a young Delaware Senator and ally of Mr Carter during his term in the White House.

Mr Carter’s Presidency has largely been marked by his final 15 months in office as the Iran hostage crisis took hold and the US’ economy dive-bombed.

At the beginning of his time in office, Mr Carter visited the UK while Labour leader Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister.

Here, the President accompanied Mr Callaghan to Newcastle.

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The city was one of the first areas of the UK to become involved in Rosalynn’s ‘Friendship Force’ programme that looked to build bridges between the US and the rest of the world.

Around 762 members of the programme travelled between Atlanta in the US and Newcastle, staying at one another’s homes and learnt about life in a different country.

Keen to see the North East for themselves, the Carters took to a stage erected at the Newcastle Civic Centre.

It was in front of a crowd of 20,000 people that the President spoke his first words to the city, and said: “Howay the lads!”

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He was received with raucous cheers and applause.

At the time, Newcastle’s The Chronicle reported: “They packed the airport.

“They packed the streets.

“They packed the area outside the Civic Centre and they opened their arms to him.

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“And he loved it.

“A great smile spread across his face at the airport as he was greeted by crowds waving both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.”

The Lord Mayor of the city, Coun Hugh White, also conferred the Freedom of the City on to President Carter.

It turned out the PR masterstroke was the President’s own idea.

According to reports, on the car journey from Newcastle airport, Mr Carter had seen a newspaper bill with the words ‘Howay Jimmy’ and another referring to ‘The lads’.

He quickly added to his statement on stage: “I am very grateful to be a Geordie now.”

The Presidential cavalcade of 16 cars then made the 10-mile journey to Washington Old Hall, the stone-built mansion that was the ancestral home of America’s first president, George Washington.

Mr Carter would later recall: “The expected friendly and polite welcome became a love fest.

“This was one of the high points of my first year as President.”

A decade on, six years after his term had come to an end in 1987, Mr Carter returned to Newcastle.

A ceremonial procession through the city took place and Mr Carter stayed with a local family, in the spirit of the Friendship Force.

Meanwhile, the Carters have spent the coronavirus pandemic mostly at their home in Plains, Georgia.

It is where both were raised and where they returned after leaving the White House in 1981.

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