When a peanut farmer from Georgia was elected president of the United States, author and historian Douglas Brinkley said it was “the closest America has come to selecting a president out of the phone book."

Jimmy Carter’s scrappy, home-spun style was something different in 1976.

Instrumental in that campaign was Dot Padgett, an activist from Douglasville, west of Atlanta, who organized the famous Peanut Brigade: Carter campaign volunteers who fanned out across the country.

Padgett, now 96 years old, shared her memories of Carter in a 2016 book, Jimmy Carter: Elected President with Pocket Change and Peanuts.

GPB’s Orlando Montoya spoke with her in her Douglasville home.

Orlando Montoya: What were you doing when you met Jimmy Carter in 1969?

Dot Padgett: When I met him, I was a mother of four children, working in the yard. And I absolutely loved working in the yard. I pulled weeds, I raked leaves, I planted flowers. But I wondered, “What will I ever tell my grandchildren that I ever did in my life?” And just at that moment, a car drove up to the curb and a man walked out. And it was Jimmy Carter. And he walked up in my yard and asked me if I would volunteer for him to work in his race for governor.

Orlando Montoya: And you write that you had a sense of Jimmy Carter's future when you saw him for the first time. What did you see in him that impressed you?

Dot Padgett: In 1970, I really did not know Jimmy Carter. I had heard the name. My husband had visited him briefly on some banking business, but nothing political. And what impressed me with what I did know about him was that the people that he surrounded himself with ... had the same values that I had and the same vision. And I thought, well, if these people support him, then that must be the same values that he has.

Orlando Montoya: Fast forwarding a few years to 1976, Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign was run by a 26-year-old Hamilton Jordan, the future chief of staff to the president. What was your role in the campaign?

Dot Padgett: As a volunteer in 1975, I was asked to help raise money. Rosalynn Carter would campaign three weeks out of a month in other parts of the country. I would scheduled a week for her in the state of Georgia.  And we would go around and the little ticket that we sold to meet and greet Rosalynn Carter sold for $10.  So we set up a series of luncheons, coffees and teas to meet Rosalynn Carter. There was absolutely no money in that campaign at all. My only connection to it before then was they were having a yard sale to raise money to pay the rent. It was quite different from what we hear now.

Orlando Montoya: I don't think a yard sale is going to pay for a campaign today.

Dot Padgett: A yard sale would not pay for one hour of what they do today. It’s — it's totally different. I'm probably one of the few people that know absolutely the difference between that campaign. We were under federal election laws as a result of Watergate. We were allowed, for the entire campaign, $31 million that we could spend. I don't think anybody can grasp the meaning of that. Do you?

Orlando Montoya: It sounds like it's peanuts.

Dot Padgett: It was peanuts and pocket change.

Orlando Montoya: The Peanut Brigade sent volunteers, many with Southern accents, to knock on doors and hand out fliers across the country. How did voters in the cold of New Hampshire and the Midwest respond to you guys?

Dot Padgett: This was a campaign strategy, and it was before it even had the name Peanut Brigade. Part of the campaign structure was that there were nine Democratic candidates in that primary — names that people recognized: senators, congressmen, people that you’d seen their names in the paper — and a peanut farmer from South Georgia. So how do you set him apart? They determined to send a plane full of Georgians to New Hampshire. And we spent a week there. We had some interesting things happen. I know one woman, her husband happened to be mayor of Plains. She knocked on the door. The lady opened the door, cracked it open a little bit, and she was standing there in the freezing cold. She said, “I’m here from Georgia to ask you to vote for my friend Jimmy Carter for president.” But she said, “I am so damn cold, I don't care who you vote for.” They invited her in; they liked honesty. And I mean, if you were a voter and you were faced with nine people and you had somebody to sit down and talk to you, it made a difference. I spoke to a man, and he was very kind. He took my brochure. He looked at it. I gave him my entire story. And he took the brochure. And he said, “Young lady, I love the way you have said it. But I have not understood a word you have said.” It was our Southern accents! But he said, “I'll take your brochure and I'll read it.” He won that race. He had won in Ohio and Iowa. And so, that really is the thing that put him in the spotlight.

Orlando Montoya: When Carter was elected president, you became assistant chief of protocol at the State Department. What did that role entail?

Dot Padgett: Well, mine was specifically for the international visitors that were invited by the president to come to this country on an official visit. And our office was to organize and travel with them. Specifically, protocol has nothing to do with the political aspects. We stay away from that. Our job is to a visitor that comes here. You help them look good in their own country, to keep them on a schedule. And that was primarily what our assignment was.

Orlando Montoya: Now, a lot of people close to Carter, like yourself, ended up in Washington roles. How did you see the culture clash of South Georgia going to Washington play out during Carter's time?

Dot Padgett: Well, personally, I had an absolutely wonderful time in Washington. I made a lot of friends and it gave me kind of a head start. But no, the press, the restaurants, they were not very friendly because we didn't have a lot of money. And we worked long hours every day.  And there was not a lot of time for recreation. And so, they thought that we were either anti-social or either we didn't have the presence enough to enjoy the Washington, D.C., life. But mostly, it was because we just worked hard.

Orlando Montoya: Do you think he was misunderstood while he was president?

Dot Padgett: Oh, I think he was misunderstood. If you read his speeches, you will see some gems, some treasures. But no one would pick it up because his delivery was not the delivery of a movie star. A lot of attention has been focused on the Peanut Brigade, because that's a large part of it. And I'm not unhappy about that at all because it was 600 people that deserved credit. But I would like for people to actually take a look at what he was able to accomplish and maybe he can rise up through the ranks of history as one of our best presidents. I don't know. I think it will take some time for that to happen. But I eventually do believe that that will happen.