Why Rosalynn Carter Was Boldly Opposed To A White House Alcohol Ban

When Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1977, he and First Lady Rosalynn Carter were the first Southern Baptist residents of the White House. As evangelical Christians, they followed a faith with conservative beliefs, including an opposition to drinking alcohol. During Carter's time as governor of Georgia, wine was served at official functions, but no hard spirits, and in 1977, the nation wondered if the same policy would hold in Washington D.C. Never one to withhold her advice, Rosalynn Carter opposed a ban on spirits, fearing the policy would reflect badly, and she and Jimmy would be seen as less relatable.

The Carters assumed the White House in the aftermath of Richard Nixon's scandal-ridden era, and they'd campaigned on a return to values. Their small-town informality, policies favoring conservation, and the role faith played conspicuously in their lives could have been a political red flag. Rosalynn Carter exhibited keen political acumen, and some might suggest she possessed a level of savvy that rivaled or perhaps exceeded that of her husband.

Moderation over abstinence was the rule

The Carter White House did serve wine and occasionally included a touch of hard liquor. Though, some might argue it was more than a touch. The book "In the President's Secret Service" quoted White House Military Office director Bill Gulley as saying, "The Carters were the biggest liars in the world" – at least when it came to Jimmy Carter calling the White House a "dry" house. Gulley alleged that the Carters requested Bloody Marys on their first Sunday in the White House. Even the president's mother claimed to have had bourbon during her stays on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Wine found its place for toasting during ceremonies and banquets, and according to Wine Spectator, Jimmy Carter later pursued winemaking in Plains, GA, his hometown, following the footsteps of his father after his White House tenure. Both Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter were acknowledged for their occasional enjoyment of a glass of wine, especially during international travels and when hosting dignitaries.