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This Day in Georgia History

October 31, 1976

Plains Baptist Church Controversy

While Jimmy Carter was poised to be elected President of the United States - partly because of the progressive civil rights plank of his platform - a drama of a very different sort was being played out at his hometown Plains Baptist Church in Georgia. There, a black minister had stated his intention to attend service and join the church on Sunday, October 31. The pastor of the Plains Baptist Church, Rev. Bruce Edwards, was an avid supporter of Carter’s and joined him in his civil rights views. Edwards wanted to accept the black minister - Rev. Clennon King - both because he did not want to see Carter embarrassed or his candidacy hurt, and more importantly simply because he felt it was the right thing to do. The deacons of the church disagreed, instead wanting to stand by a regulation passed in 1965 that banned “all Negroes and civil rights agitators” from the church. Instead of rescinding the ban and allowing King to attend church services, the deacons voted to cancel services that Sunday and recommend that Rev. Edwards be fired. The issue did not significantly affect Carter’s candidacy, and he was elected President two days later. Edwards received national acclaim for his stand and presided over a People’s Prayer Service on inauguration day. But the deacons kept pushing for his ouster - even having a church vote on it canceled when Carter was scheduled to be present. Realizing the situation was not likely to improve, and wanting to avoid further controversy, Edwards soon resigned. He and the Carters, along with other like-minded members of the congregation, subsequently founded the Maranatha Baptist Church, which allowed members of all races.