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Celebrations across the country mark former President Jimmy Carter's 99th birthday


Former President Jimmy Carter turns 99 years old today. People in Atlanta celebrated the Georgia native's big birthday a little early, though, overconcerned about a federal government shutdown. They had cake, music and games yesterday at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Rahul Bali with member station WABE in Atlanta paid a visit.

RAHUL BALI, BYLINE: The lobby is packed with kids playing marbles, adults making birthday cards and many people lined up for birthday cake. Different visitors have different reasons why they wanted to show up to honor Jimmy Carter. Liz Hutchison is visiting from Annapolis, Md., and is an oncology nurse.

LIZ HUTCHISON: Him being so public about his battle with cancer has been an inspiration to a lot of people and helped advance research. So I think that's a reason that I personally deeply appreciate him. So it's just nice to be here to celebrate for him.

BALI: Others here have stories of meeting Jimmy Carter, including Ken Driggs of Atlanta. He was involved in Florida politics when Carter visited Tallahassee during his run for president.

KEN DRIGGS: I thought he was a good man. We seem to find that harder and harder to get now.

BALI: Carter has been in home hospice since February but did make a public appearance with his wife, Rosalynn, last weekend. Their grandson Jason Carter says it's been a blessing to watch the grace with which his grandfather has been facing the final chapter of his life, and he adds that the former president and his wife have been gratified by the tributes that have been pouring in from around the world.

JASON CARTER: Whether they're aware of that entire scope, it would be hard. But they certainly have felt the love. And we've been keeping them up to date on all of this outpouring of support and respect.

BALI: Typically, adult admission to the Carter Library and Museum is $12. But for President Carter's birthday weekend, the museum charts just 99 cents for admission, says spokesperson Tony Clark.

TONY CLARK: It was about 10 years ago I came up with the idea of charging the same amount as the president and Mrs. Carter's birthday. And we've always said we're waiting for them to get to be 100 so we can charge a dollar. But getting this close at 99, this is really exciting for us.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Happy birthday to you.

BALI: Clark, who has worked at the Carter Library for nearly two decades, led the singing of "Happy Birthday" before visitors got to enjoy slices of chocolate marble cake.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Happy birthday to you.

BALI: For NPR News, I'm Rahul Bali in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rahul Bali