Billy Carter, the younger brother and proverbial thorn in the side of the 39th President of the United States Jimmy Carter, was known as much for his lust for life as for his famous sibling. At heart a good natured and fun loving southern boy, Billy was also incredibly bright and attended Emory University but left without a degree to join the Navy. He was neither afraid to voice his opinions, nor uneducated about international policy and would happily discuss his thoughts with New York reporters. In a true southern fashion however, he would often do this while throwing back a few ice cold beers.
In 1972, long before his brother became president, Billy purchased a service station in Plains, Georgia and it was from there that much of his lasting impact on the small town was made.
During the Carter administration reporters flocked to Billy’s Gas Station, which was famously known more for its backyard barbeques of grilled ribs and catfish heavily lubricated with cans of beer, than it was for pumping gas. Though Billy loved the attention of being the First Brother of Plains’ most famous son, the gas station was first and foremost an actual business that he ran for almost a decade.
For most of his brother’s presidency Billy was happy to hang around his gas station in Plains, chit-chatting with reporters and spending time with lifelong friends. While he may not have been the first or the last of the trouble making brother’s of presidents (Roger Clinton), he is most certainly the only one to have his own museum.
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, Georgia covers acres of land and consists of several buildings with connections to Jimmy Carter’s life, Billy’s gas station is most definitely not part of the larger complex. It is not operated by the national park service and was instead a work of love paid for in large part by President Carter himself, with a little help of the Plains Better Hometown Program of course.
Billy Carter died of pancreatic cancer in 1988 at the age of 51 and his once loved gas station was turned into a museum dedicated to his life, legacy, and the years spent there during his brother’s presidency. The original gas station building was in a serious state of disrepair when the idea to preserve it began, and after demolition was replaced with a replica.
Now a museum dedicated to the famous First Brother, the service station offers a collection of memorabilia highlighting the 1970s fame of Billy Carter. Exhibits range from cans of Billy Beer to publicity photos from B-movies featuring Billy and clothing he wore on TV shows. Though it bills itself as a “museum”, the service station is really more of a monument dedicated to a life lived brightly in the shadows.
Billy Carter’s Service Station Facts
- During the Carter administration Billy lent his name to Billy Beer, a product he later distanced himself from because it was apparently a very bad tasting product.
- Despite his relationship with Billy Beer, Billy Carter preferred to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.
- A sign in the museum notes that the Billy Carter Gas Station sold 2,000 cases of beer and 45,000 gallons of gas a month at the height of the Carter Presidency.
- The small building along US 280 in Plains, Georgia is open to the public and features two original gas pumps set to the 1979 prices. They are the only surviving original parts of the gas station.
- Billy sold the gas station in 1981. One year after Jimmy Carter lost his reelection campaign.
- The service station is located at 104 E. Church St, Plains, GA 31780.
- The Billy Carter Service Station is not an operational gas station.