Ask Me: Rosalynn Carter made three visits to Fresno

The Fresno BeeFebruary 22, 2014 

First lady Rosalynn Carter, center left, attended a fundraising reception at a Sunnyside-area home in 1979. It was one of three visits she made to Fresno. At center right is the late Rose Ann Vuich, a California state senator.

THOM HALLS — The Fresno Bee Buy Photo

Question: When did Rosalynn Carter visit Fresno?

-- Carl Knoch, Clovis

Answer: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter came to Fresno three times to campaign for her husband, President Jimmy Carter. During each visit she spoke in support of her husband's policies and programs and charmed those who met her, according to The Bee's coverage.

Carter made her first trip to Fresno on Oct. 14, 1976, when she greeted visitors at the Fresno District Fair and campaigned for her husband's first presidential bid. She stopped by the Democratic party's booth in the Agriculture Building and was introduced on stage in the Paul Paul Theater prior to a performance by guitarist Jose Feliciano.

Jimmy Carter was president when his wife returned to Fresno on July 24, 1979 for a $500-a-couple fundraising reception at the large, two-story home of Sam and Betsy Reeves on Butler Avenue.

The day before Carter's visit, as volunteers moved furniture, answered nonstop phone calls and spruced up the home's expansive yard, Betsy Reeves appeared unruffled by the first lady's impending arrival.

"No, I'm not nervous," Reeves said in a Bee story. "You know, they're just people too." Reeves said it was important for Carter to get a better understanding of the Valley, so she designed a centerpiece for the reception table made of local fruits and vegetable to convey the diversity and bounty of Valley agriculture. "I'm not quite sure Washington ... understands our very complex problems," she said. "I don't think they really comprehend the greatness of the Valley."

The couple shared Southern roots with the Carters. Sam Reeves is a native of Georgia, where Jimmy Carter was governor, and Betsy Reeves is from North Carolina. The couple now lives in Florida.

In a nod to their shared traditions and to the diversity of the Valley, the reception menu included ham and biscuits -- but no grits -- and also Armenian, Mexican, Greek, Japanese and Italian dishes, Betsy Reeves said.

Before Carter's arrival Secret Service agents and a White House advance team set up a security post and communications center in the garage.

Sam Reeves, president of W. B. Dunavant Co. cotton merchants in Fresno, and his wife were Republicans, but he had served on Jimmy Carter's food and fiber committee during the 1976 election campaign.

The 96 people who attended the event represented both parties. "She's charming. I was really impressed," Republican Fred Willey said.

On Feb. 8, 1980, Carter flew into then-Fresno Air Terminal aboard Air Force One to speak to about 400 people at a $50-a-plate luncheon at the Fresno Fairgrounds. She also attended a $1,000-a-person reception at the then-Fresno Hilton hotel in downtown Fresno.

Democratic party officials estimated Carter raised about $75,000 during the whirlwind trip for her husband's run for a second term. Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan won the November election in a landslide.

Q: I often see American flags flying overnight or in the rain at local businesses. What is the proper protocol for flying the flag at night and in the rain?

-- Pat Rose, Fresno

A: According to the United States Flag Code, while it is customary to fly the American flag from sunrise to sunset, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if it is "properly illuminated during hours of darkness." The Flag Code doesn't define what proper illumination is, but American Legion guidelines say a light should be trained directly on the flag or there should be enough lighting in the area so "the flag is recognizable as such by the casual observer." The flag may be flown in inclement weather, but only if it made of an all-weather material. Most flags made today are all-weather, but the Flag Code suggests checking the package label to be certain.

More about: After an answer about Stan's Drive-in appeared on Jan. 26, Marvin Arnold of Fresno sent along his memories of the popular teen hangout.

"As I approach my 82nd birthday my memory may be slipping a bit," Arnold wrote, "but I think Stan's Drive-in was in business before 1950. I graduated from Fresno High in 1950 and for at least two years or more my 'gang' spent some part of Friday nights at Stan's eating deep-dish berry pies and harassing the waitresses."

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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