Neonotia, or New South, is a survivor nation built in the late 1980's through the efforts of former Georgia governor (and US president) James E. "Jimmy" Carter. It began as a campaign of racial and economic unity in the Deep South across the southern portions of the former states of Georgia and Alabama. The area was one of largely segregated communities in a time when minorities had developed a dependence on government aid. The lingering "racism" was largely the result of resentment on the part of the majority to a perceived "reverse discrimination" on the part of state and federal governments. All this, though, had changed on September 26, 1983.
Escape from Atlanta
Having just visited his dying sister in North Carolina, former US president Jimmy Carter had flown back to Atlanta to await word of her condition at his apartment near the Carter Center. Having left office on January 20, 1981, Carter had a detail of secret service agents that traveled with him and protected his family. Though he had considered relieving the government of that burden, the collapse of his family business in his absence (it was being managed by a blind trust) had left him a million dollars in debt. The detail of agents living in Atlanta, though, did not mind their job for the former president had actually recruited some of the local law enforcement into the service when he had been elected president in 1976.
Carter's heart was heavy when he visited the First Baptist Church of Atlanta Sunday evening, September 25, 1983. He had prayed with the pastor about his sister Ruth Stapleton, a Pentecostal evangelist who had, as she put it, "turned it all over to Jesus" in her fight against cancer. Her last words to him on Friday evening had been, "It's going to be all right, Jimmy." He had taken a message from the Secret Service that she had lapsed into a coma that afternoon. He had asked the agent to arrange for a flight for first thing in the morning.
At 8:45 pm, as Carter had settled into his study to go through some papers pertaining to Carter Center business in the coming week, he received a call on his "hot line," This phone number was known only to a few people - the governor of Georgia, the office of the Secret Service, and the offices of senators from Georgia. This call was from an aide of Carter's friend, Senator Sam Nunn, who lived in the Atlanta area when home from Washington. The message was frantic, and the sound of confusion was in the background. The staffer, at home in suburban Alexandria, said "The Russians - those damn Commies -- it's a first strike. God help us!! Turn on the TV, Mr. President."
Hanging up the telephone, Carter called to his wife Rosalyn to get their daughter and their travel bags together. His next call was to the Secret Service. But the phone rang first. It was the agent Reggie Bragdon. They would be there in the armored limo within five minutes. They knew, as did Carter, that Atlanta would be a target within hours of the first missile's arrival across the arctic. Every minute counted, and Plains was inevitably a whole lot safer than Atlanta at a time like this.
By 8:55, the Carters and two agents were in a limo heading south. Within twenty minutes, they had reached US highway 19, having avoided Interstate highway 75 which already, in only ten minutes from the first warning, had begun to get crowded. Reaching speeds of over ninety miles per hour the driver had the Carters in Thomaston by 9:40, just as the first of three 350 kt. nuclear warheads exploded over Atlanta. Rosalyn and Amy had obediently taken safety in the large floorboard of the limo, but the former president had insisted on seeing what was happening. He spotted the flash over Atlanta in the side view mirror, and moments later flashes to the east and west were seen. He could guess that both Ft. Bennings and Robbins Air Force base had been hit - and probably Columbus and Macon along with them. He also figured that he'd be safe in Plains within an hour.
As the limo approached Americus, though, the driver informed them that their destination had changed. The backup location of Smithville, in Lee County, would be their first stop. With multiple bombs hitting all over Georgia, it was supposed that foreign agents within the country may be looking for Carter and other dignitaries that might be called on to manage the crisis in case of the loss of the government in Washington. Radio contact via shielded short wave had weathered the EMPs that had darkened every town and city in the state. The darkened streets of Americus, less than an hour since the first bomb in the upper atmosphere had exploded, had become the scene of uncontrolled riots. Even the suburbs through which the limosine sped had signs of fires burning as stores were being robbed.
At 11:23 pm local time, Carter and his family, along with their two guards, arrived at the home of the pastor of Smithville Baptist Church, which the church had offered as a safe house. In a few days, it had been agreed, a vacant home would be made available for the Carters. The Secret Service agents, meanwhile, would bed in the fellowship hall of the church. It was hoped, of course, that a home near the Carters would be found for them as well.
For Such a Time as This
Though the secret service had chosen Smithville as the safe haven for Carter and his family, he was close enough to his hometown to be considered "home." Being a small southern town, much of the infrastructure was still based on hardwired appliances not effected by the EMP that had paralyzed the nation. By the time diesel and gasoline powered generators began to run low in fuel, local power had begun to flow from the practically new hydro-electric plant in Newton. This was largely due to the co-operation of the Georgia Power engineers working with Carter's staff to get relay stations and transformers up and running in all of southwest Georgia.
With power available on a limited basis, much of life began to return to "normal." Of course what would be considered "normal" in fast-paced Atlanta, was far from the normal of Smithville, or even Albany. What was normal in Albany and nearby Dawson, though, was racial strife. Even into the eighties, much of the historical inequities had remained. One place, though, that Carter knew he could go to seek solutions to this dilemma was Koinonia Farms, a Christian community eight miles southeast of Americus. The community had been far enough away from Americus to avoid being ransacked as the town had been in the days following the loss of power and other services. Its inhabitants had been inconvenienced by the loss of power and communication, but had learned to be self-sufficient in the community's four decades in existence.
Carter was glad to find his old friend Millard Fuller had escaped the chaos in Americus to the quiet surrounding at Koinonia. It had been there that Fuller had met the community's founder Clarence Jordan in the 1960's. Jordan, in fact, had been the uncle to Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan - just one more link to the area that Carter found to be a godsend in the effort to rebuild. In 1976, the same year Carter had been elected president of the United States, Fuller had returned from building houses in Africa to found Habitat for Humanity in Americus, Georgia. After leaving office, Carter had established the Carter Center in Atlanta - a work now in ashes due to multiple megatons of explosions over that city -- but his next project had already been in the works. That was to partner with Fuller in his ministry.
Though Fuller's vision for an international impact was now shattered, the need for housing for the poor and struggling had increased tremendously. Gone was the profiteering of the "Housing Industry." The banking system was history as well. What was needed now was exactly what Fuller had envisioned -- houses built by neighbors and for neighbors. The materials, expertise and labor were all to be donated if south Georgia was to rise from the dust to once more take its place among the nations of the world.
A New South
As Jimmy Carter worked with the people in the small towns of southwest Georgia, he was amazed to find that the spiritual roots that Clarence Jordan had tapped into a half-century before ran deeper than anyone imagined. Though still largely self-segregated, the African-Americans held very little animosity to their white neighbors. For the most part, the white community's chief complaint was that the black community was "living off" the government. Now neither community had a "life-line" to the government, and the needs of both remained basic -- food, water, and shelter. These things were quite available to all, if they would only learn the most basic lesson of human relations: share with each other. That had been key to the success of Koinonia Farms. And it proved crucial in the rebuilding of society on both sides of the Chattahoochee River.
One ally that Carter found in his effort was a fellow Southern Baptist from nearby Parrott, a young minister that had just taken a call to the historic Parrott Baptist Church. In a one street town with an old train station, John Martin had just returned from visiting a friend's church in Americus that fateful night that the bombs fell and the lights went out. Martin had graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979 after getting a degree in Americus in history in 1976. During the week he taught history in Crisp County -- two counties over on the other side of Albany. His sister Sharon was a student in Americus, also studying to be a teacher. On Tuesday, September 27, 1983, he had still not been in contact with his parents in Albany. That evening two pulpwood trucks pulled into the parsonage yard.
One was driven by John's dad, Henry, with his baby brother Billy and his mom Becky. The other was driven by a middle aged black man with his wife and two children squeezed in the cab. The elder Martin had boarded up the racks and turned the trucks into moving vans. The word from Albany was that the area was total chaos. It would take something like the National Guard to keep the peace. No National Guard had shown up. Martin Pulpwood Company's wood yard was on the east side of Albany and its wooden buildings had been flattened, or so it was assumed, for Henry had not been able to contact anyone to make sure. The second truck had made it over to Lee County even as the mushroom cloud had lit up the night sky in its rear view window. Jesse Johnson had heard the warning to leave the city and figured his boss's house was about as far as he could get.
Henry Martin knew the Smithville area well, and had suggested that perhaps the family could resettle there. He knew that several land owners that had sold stands of pine to him for pulpwood. He had a few crews that had been working the area for months. John had told him they were welcome to stay in Parrott, but that he could not leave his church. He also had still held out hope of recontacting the school in Sylvester. By October 1st, though, he had helped his dad, mom, and five-year-old Billy move into a vacant house in Smithville. It was then that he learned that Jimmy Carter had moved to town.
Through Americus connections, who had fled to Smithville as well, John was able to get through to talk to the former president. As a historian, he was fascinated with the turn of events. As Carter spoke of what he had learned, Martin began to speculate about the necessity of some sort of temporary state government to bring order to Albany and other areas that were adversely affected by the nuclear exchange. They knew that Ft. Benning had been hit, and of course Atlanta. Observers had also seen the cloud and flash up toward Macon. Carter, on the other hand, was actually more excited about what Fuller had started. What had once been an international plan had become a matter of survival as the winter approached. As a nuclear physicist, he fully expected a "nuclear winter" to overtake them very soon. Nevertheless, he agreed to head up a committee to develop a government before the next summer was over.
With the help of Jesse Johnson, Henry Martin set up a wood yard on the outskirts of Smithville. From there, the pulpwood trucks became "log trucks," hauling logs destined to become the homes of hundreds of Georgians before the summer of 1984 was over. One day a week, though, smaller trees were harvested and turned into firewood, which became an alternate fuel for the anticipated long winter ahead. Fortunately for Georgia and the rest of the world, the "nuclear winter" never came. The stockpile of firewood, though, would assure Martin and his family a good "currency" in the coming years as citizens from miles around would trade all matter of food and supplies for a reliable heating source. The logs his company trimmed to Fuller's specs, though, assured him that his daughter would graduate in the reopened school in Americus only about eighteen months later than planned. Sharon Martin, 19, had become friends with Amy Carter, then 16, and was instrumental in getting the former president's daughter interested in early childhood education. Part of that influence had been the times that little Billy Martin had played in the Carters' yard. It is not every first-grader who has secret service agents to protect him!
A Nation is born
By mid-winter of 1984, when it had become evident that no "nuclear winter" was coming, things began to get back to normal all across south Georgia. The biggest problem had been fallout coming in from the southwest for weeks after doomsday. Increased winter rains had helped to clean the skies and the land, though, and the talk shifted to what had become of the rest of the world. What little information that Carter could gather seemed to indicate that some of the US government had survived, but he had not heard anything from anyone in Washington. His contacts with other world leaders had been completely severed.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, January 29th, he received visitors from out of town. His security team, headed by his loyal Secret Service agents, had intercepted a band of soldiers and a man who claimed to be the governor of Alabama - Bill Baxley, but he was not the last-known governor, the southern icon George Wallace. Under heavy guard, having been disarmed, the group was escorted into the city hall building to await a meeting with the former president of the United States. John Martin, in town visiting his parents, recognized two members of the group, both Auburn University athletes: football quarterback Randy Campbell and basketball star Charles Barkley. From there, it was a matter of a personal messenger on a "government issue" motorcycle fetching Carter who showed up dressed for church that evening. He recognized Gov. Baxley and was saddened to hear of the death of Wallace. Discussion went into the night as Carter arranged for the Governor and his people to lodge at his childhood home recently under restoration on his family's farm outside of Plains when Carter moved home in the spring.
The addition of Baxley and his staff gave Carter the foundation of a new government. Though most of the government would be run out of the campus of Georgia Southwester College in Americus (reopened in September of 1984), Carter preferred to use facilities in Plains as the seat of his new administration. Throughout the summer of 1984, he and Baxley traveled southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama. Most of the survivor communities had adapted to life without electricity a lot better than expected. Charles Barkley had become a trusted aide to the former president and proved invaluable in communicating with the youth. Leaders in many towns expressed support for Carter as "their" president, even though he had been defeated in the 1980 election. As a result, on Baxley's suggestion, the men got this in writing.
In lieu of elections in November of 1984, the signed letters of hundreds of civic leaders in scores of counties were used to establish James Earle Carter, Jr., as the provisional governor of the new state which he gave the name "Neonotia." This was a "fancy" way of saying "the New South," a designation which Baxley's and Barkley associated with the racist regime that had run them out of Auburn. Carter had a way with language and had gone to ancient Greek root words to coin the name for what he hoped would be a thriving state to arise out of the ashes of the apocalypse.
For a short sketch of the governors of Neonotia, go to "Governors of Neonotia." This list will be expanded to articles as time permits. More to come in this section -- also other sections. The following section is to bring the state into the present, the spring of 2011.
From the beginning, being founded by a former president of the United States, Neonotia has sought to reach out to other survivor nations and states, no matter the size. However, the contact with refugees from Auburn, representing the ousted government of Alabama, led to a cautious approach for well into the 1990's. Carter had been able to befriend the survivors in Tuskegee, and the city and surrounding counties became the northernmost boundary of Neonotia.
After eight years with Carter at the helm, his lieutenant governor Bill Baxley took over. Baxley attempted some contact with the government of Selma in 1993, only to be turned aside because of animosity in that primarily black city-state as they remembered the atrocities of the Army of Alabama. Attempts to reach out westward were hampered by the renegade government in New Montgomery. After that, there was a build up of troops along the northern border of the claimed counties in Alabama.
Oddly, through contact with the government of the CSA state of Georgia in 1988, Neonotia found that all its territory could legally be considered under the jurisdiction of another country! However, the CSA was not interested in expanding that far south. Contact remained sporadic for the remaining history of the CSA, but Neonotia continued diplomatic relations with each of the independent states of that short-lived Federation. This contact had been by an exploratory expedition lead by Army Colonel Michel Sumrall who went on to confront warring clans in eastern Tennessee before sending word back from eastern Virginia of activity among survivors there. Years later, Sumrall would establish diplomatic relations with his former 'home' as the second President-General of the Virginia Republic.
Meanwhile, contact had been established with the struggling government in Gainesville, North Florida, and through them the government of South Florida and beyond in the Caribbean. Contact has been made with the United States Atlantic Remnant and through them the United States of America. Despite enthusiastic support of the League of Nations at the time of the meeting with former governors Carter and Barkley in 2009, present Governor Sonny Perdue vetoed overtures from the General Assembly to become a member of that international body. However, Barkley traveled at Carter's request to LoN headquarters to be an unofficial observer and lobbyist for the interests of Neonotia.
The Return of America?
Most sections are simple phrases, but this section could best be presented as a question. After over a quarter century the scattered and mostly forgotten or unknown nation-states and city-states are coming to know each other at the same time as citizens are beginning to consider the possibility that America was indeed as great as their parents say it was. From the Alabama River in the west to the Savannah River in the east, from Plains to Thomasville and from Dothan to Darien, people were talking about national politics again.
It was not just the "state," but much bigger -- a return to the glory of the past of Jimmy Carter. World recognition as a voice to be heard in many languages. It was word that the USA was not dead, the stars and stripes had not faded. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not foreign leaders of legend, but true heroes that made America great in the days of tyrants.
For the first time since contact with the Carolina nation-states in a conference in Rome, Georgians had hope that Americans could work together. Hope below the border, in the newly united Florida, had blossomed, but was nothing in comparison to the overtures coming out of Wyoming. Talk in Plains was that an "American Embassy" was in the works. Excitement was high as prospects of a larger, more powerful alliance was just around the corner. Rumors had it that the United States of America was alive and growing in the American west.
Radios were tuned to hear former governor Jimmy Carter, now Neonotia's "ambassador to the world," speak on Sunday afternoon, March 20, 2011. The legislature had ratified a treaty made with the United States of America, with the co-signatures of Carter and the "Ambassador to America" appointed by the US Congress, that declared intent of co-operation and good will. If all went well, both the provisional states of Georgia (capital at Rome) and Neonotia would become part of a reconstituted "territory of Georgia" that would be set into motion to be annexed by the USA as one or more states as voted on by the citizenry of its various sections. Details would be worked out, and even the territory status was subject to great debate. The status of western Neonotia (southeastern Alabama) was still in flux due to ongoing talks in Florence, Alabama.
The status quo was the one thing that was the most uncertain. Change was coming, but no one knew exactly in what shape that would come.