PLAINS, Ga. -- Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, welcomed crew members of the Navy's newest nuclear attack submarine - the USS Jimmy Carter - to their hometown Monday as they opened a new display in their old high school that highlights his career in the Navy.
"Nothing has pleased me more ... than to have this great ship named for me," Carter told the submariners and about 300 Junior ROTC students from high schools in six counties. "All of you have honored me by coming here."
The display features a model of the new submarine, the nation's third and final Seawolf-class submarine. It also contains pictures and information on Carter's life from 1946, when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and married his wife.
For the next seven years, the Carters were stationed at various bases around the country.
A nuclear physicist, Carter became an aid to Admiral Hyman Rickover (then a captain), who is considered the father of the modern nuclear Navy.
Carter was preparing to become the engineering officer on an early nuclear submarine, the USS Seawolf, when his father died in 1953 and relatives asked him to return to Plains to manage the family's business.
After his return, Carter won a state senate seat, ran successfully for governor and then became the nation's 39th president.
Shortly after his election to the nation's highest office, Rickover phoned his new commander in chief and said, "Now you won't be working for me anymore. I'll be working for you."
The submarine that honors Carter will be 100 feet longer, at 453 feet, than its sister ships so that its 150-member crew can perform a wider range of missions.
Armed with anti-submarine torpedoes and cruise missiles, the USS Jimmy Carter will have an unmanned craft for mine detection and extra space for carrying special operations troops on stealthy missions.
Some of the ship's key crew members, including the captain, Cmdr. David Bartholomew Jr., Master Chief Shawn Burke and Chief Petty Officer Rodney Kerstetter, were on hand for the ceremony.
"I know he's very proud of his Navy service and he's proud the Navy is naming a submarine for him," said Bartholomew, a 1979 Naval Academy graduate.
Bartholomew said Carter may be offered a ride, possibly lasting two days, in the USS Jimmy Carter, set to be launched in January.
Much of Plains and Carter's boyhood home in nearby Archery are a part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. The Carters' old high school has been turned into a visitor center and museum that traces the life of the former president and first lady.
Fred Boyles, superintendent of the site, said the museum has always had a small display focusing on Carter's achievement at the Naval Academy.
He said the new display shows Carter's relationship with the Navy from the time he was a boy who dreamed of going to sea, to his work as commander in chief, to a person who has received one of the Navy's top honors - a submarine bearing his name.
"Jimmy Carter's involvement in the Navy is probably one of the least understood aspects of his life, much less that he served in the submarines," said Boyles, a commander in the Navy reserve. "They get only the best and the brightest."
On the Net:
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site: http://www.nps.gov/jica/
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