Photographer saddened by news of Jimmy Carter entering hospice care

He was ‘normal people’ who required everyone to work at Habitat for Humanity builds

By: - March 6, 2023 5:00 am
jimmy carter

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, at a “build” for Habitat for Humanity in Mississippi. (Courtesy of George Hipple Photography)

LINCOLN — A flood of memories returned for North Platte photographer George Hipple when he heard the news that former President Jimmy Carter had entered hospice care.

Hipple had served as the official photographer for the former president for 13 years when he participated in Habitat for Humanity “builds” in such faraway places as India, Africa and the Philippines.

“He meant so much to so many people,” he said. “You couldn’t help but be influenced by a man like that.”

jimmy carter
In 2012, country music star Garth Brooks joined Jimmy Carter and other volunteers with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Haiti. (Courtesy of George Hipple Photography)

Carter, 98, decided to spend his “remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,” the Associated Press reported Feb. 21.

Hipple, 63, would accompany Carter and Habitat for Humanity volunteers for two to four weeks at a time as they built homes in the U.S. and abroad.

Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, had been involved with the charity for 35 years.

Face of Habitat

Hipple said Jimmy Carter was the face of the organization and was often mistaken as its founder. Millard Fuller, a lawyer, and his wife, Linda, founded the Christian organization in 1976.

Carter’s involvement was not for show, according to Hipple.

George Hipple
George Hipple (courtesy George Hipple Photography)

Work days would begin as early as 4 a.m. and extent into the evening, he said. Carter, whose peanut farmer background was legendary, would often urge celebrities who showed up at Habitat sites to do more than pose with a hammer.

 “There was nothing that would tick off Carter more than to see someone not working,” Hipple said. ” ‘Get back to work. That’s what we’re here for,’ he’d say.”

‘Worn out at end of day’

“Even in my 40s when working with him — he was in his 80s — I literally would be worn out at the end of the day.”

 “That’s why he was president,” Hipple said of his endurance and dedication.

Jimmy Carter
Former President Jimmy Carter, left, a retired Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, chats in 2016 with Vice Admiral Ted Carter, who is  now president of the University of Nebraska system. Carter recently tweeted the photo and asked for prayers for his fellow Navy veteran. (Screenshot)

Hipple, who operates a photo studio in North Platte and works with the state parole and probation programs, said he served as a volunteer when photographing the former president, though Habitat for Humanity paid for his flights and other expenses.

Hipple said his work led to meeting celebrities such as Garth Brooks and Brad Pitt on builds in Haiti and India. He also was invited to a state dinner held for Carter in the Philippines, where Hipple was born.

Cher, he said, was a true “diva.”

“To actually be a part of that was amazing,” Hipple said. “This dude from Nebraska … on the world stage doing that.”

‘Normal people’

The knock on Carter, he said, was that he was better after being president than when he was while in the White House. The former president was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his dedication to finding “peaceful solutions” to international conflicts.

The photographer said he gave up his Habitat post about five years ago but still recalls following Carter in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

Carter taught Sunday school classes when he was home, Hipple said, and would take the time to sit and talk to people who had come to see him at the church.

“He was just like you and I,” he said. “Normal people. He just had a higher calling than any of us.”


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.