The Women Jimmy's Georgians Brought to Washington Are Proud, Private and Unawed

President Jimmy Carter’s most trusted aides are Georgians, who seem to be settling comfortably into the seats of power. But what about their wives? Their glory is largely reflected, their status determined, as always in Washington, by their husbands’ clout. The women turn out to be an interesting mix, most of them born to modest means and some now rich, well educated, the mothers of many children, do-gooders, active politically and socially. Life was good to them back home. Here is a report on how six Administration wives are adjusting to the political upheaval that wrenched them out of the red clay hills and pine forests of their native Georgia.

Nan Powell’s Jody is home again

For some political wives, moving to Washington means an end to their family life. For Nan Powell, 34, wife of presidential press secretary Jody Powell, it means a chance to put hers together again. “This is what I’ve been waiting for,” she says happily. “Jody is getting home by 9 or 10 o’clock at night. It’s marvelous—unheard of after the last two years of campaigning!”

Husband Jody began his travels with Carter back in 1970, during the second gubernatorial campaign. “My family thought Jody was crazy to get involved with that guy,” she recalls, “and to tell the truth I was thinking the same thing. I’d see them about one night a week. They used to travel light, and I’d wash their clothes and fix them a baloney sandwich.” (Later, demonstrating her versatility, she played a sure-handed shortstop in the Plains presidential softball league.)

Married 11 years, Mrs. Powell was reared in Gainesville, Ga., the daughter of a food broker. She attended Young Harris College in northern Georgia but transferred to Brenau in Gainesville in order to save money. She met Jody on a blind date (“Actually, he had the foresight to drop by my apartment and check me out first”) and later supported him during three years of postgraduate study at Emory University. “He had a full fellowship plus tuition,” she remembers, “but it was still tough. I was making about $4,200 a year teaching.”

Mrs. Powell taught grade school in Atlanta for 12 years and sang in the choir of the First Baptist Church. “During the past two years there have been some places where I was not known as Jody Powell’s wife—he was known as Mrs. Powell’s husband,” she says. “That was important to me.”

Nan handles the family finances (he makes $44,600 a year), and when Jody found a cozy three-bedroom house in the swank Spring Valley section of Washington, he called to ask if they could swing the $650 rent. They have since settled in, though Nan’s house plants froze en route from Atlanta. Like many new Administration couples, the Powells are swamped with invitations, the symbols of Washington status. “I don’t know how I’ll handle the social life,” says Nan. “I’ve never been comfortable with small talk, and we’re going to have to do some picking and choosing. I don’t intend to leave my child at home every night.”

Emily Powell, 10, who is enrolled in public school, is—like her mother—underwhelmed by capital pomp. Not long ago her father appeared on TV as the President’s spokesman. “Emily was so unimpressed by the whole business,” says Nan, “she wouldn’t even come to the television.”

Homebody Mary Bell is no echo of Martha

“She’s just Mary,” says a friend. “Wherever Griffin has gone, Mary has gone.” Now that Griffin Bell has gone to Washington as Jimmy Carter’s Attorney General, 58-year-old Mary Roy Powell Bell is there too. “I have no plans yet,” she says, “but my main interest is in my family and my home.”

The civic-minded but publicity-shy Mrs. Bell was born in Atlanta and moved to Richmond, Va. as a teenager. Her father was an automobile accessories broker. After graduation from a private girls’ school in North Carolina she worked as a secretary in a Richmond bank until her marriage in 1943. For the next three years she lived in Florida, San Francisco and Seattle, accompanying Bell, a major in the Army transportation corps. In 1946 they returned to Georgia, where her husband enrolled in Mercer University law school in Macon. He went into practice in Savannah and Rome, and in 1953 they moved to Atlanta.

Mary Bell, once an active Junior Leaguer, has worked in her Baptist church’s programs for underprivileged children and has supported such cultural mainstays as the Atlanta Symphony and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. She collects antiques, plays bridge and golf with her husband and is a conscientious gardener. The Bells’ $200,000 house in Atlanta (which they plan to keep) shows Mary’s touch as a decorator. “Downstairs she has only louvered shutters, no draperies,” a friend says. “It took real talent to decorate that way without having the rooms look cold. It’s very English-looking.” Mary favors clothes that are moderately tailored and is known for her skills in the kitchen. “Her quail makes my mouth water just to think about it,” says a friend. Mary and the $63,000-a-year Attorney General will settle in an apartment in Watergate. The Bells have a son, Griffin Jr., a Savannah attorney, and two grandchildren, Griffin III, 8, and Katherine, 6.

“Mary Bell won’t be another Martha Mitchell,” observes a Justice Department aide who knows her well. “She has a lot of opinions, but she enjoys her privacy.”

Nancy is the Moore of all trades

“With my shoe and a nail and a pair of pliers in my hand,” declares Nancy Moore, “I can do anything.” Such wifely self-reliance is the legacy of an absentee husband, and Nancy’s—White House congressional liaison director Frank Moore—has until recently been more absent than most. “Just two weeks ago,” says Mrs. Moore, 38, “I washed his clothes and for the first time in two years didn’t put them back in a suitcase.”

Nancy Moore seems, like most top Carter administration wives, imbued with a sense of domestic contentment. Women’s lib, she confides, “is not what I need. I’ve never felt pushed aside. But I am all for the Equal Rights Amendment, and I admire Betty Ford for her great campaign for it.”

The daughter of a hardware salesman and claims court judge, Mrs. Moore, a Methodist, was born in Birmingham, Ala. and brought up in Nan Powell’s hometown of Gainesville, Ga. (Nan and the Nancys—Moore and Jordan—lunch together once a week.) A physical education major, she graduated from Brenau College, met her husband on a blind date and “was smitten by him from the first.” When Frank was hired in 1966 as executive director of a county planning commission of which Jimmy Carter was chairman, the Moores moved to Ellaville, near Plains, and later to Atlanta when Carter became governor. Nancy is upset by harsh press criticism of her husband’s performance with Congress. “Frank is a super guy with a great sense of humor and a short staff,” she maintains. “I know if he had four heads, eight ears and hands to go with them, he couldn’t do a better job.”

The Moore children—Elizabeth, 11, Courtney, 9, Hank, 7, and Brian, 6—attend public school near the four-bedroom Washington home Nancy rented sight unseen from NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, now in New York with Today. Once a science and physical education teacher, Mrs. Moore is looking for a part-time job (“I want to see how far the dollars go”) and expects to do some volunteer work at the White House, answering Rosalynn Carter’s mail. She worries about her husband’s health in his $46,800-a-year post. He eats erratically, she says, and doesn’t exercise often. A small-town girl, Mrs. Moore doesn’t expect the demands of Washington to bother her. “The children are the most important things to Frank and me,” she says. “I don’t want to change. I like us the way we are.”

The Jordan who picks up after Ham is Nancy

Since White House special assistant Hamilton Jordan and his wife moved into their three-bedroom townhouse on Capitol Hill, the early-rising Jordan has never eaten breakfast at home. That kind of schedule is nothing new to his wife, Nancy, who worked with him during Jimmy Carter’s 1970 gubernatorial campaign and had to squeeze in a wedding and honeymoon in a single mid-campaign weekend. When Carter decided to go for the Presidency, she says, “at first I tried to wait dinner for Ham. But about 10 burned casseroles later, I decided, ‘It’s McDonald’s for the next two years.’ ” And now? “I cook,” she says with sweet resignation. “If he comes home, okay. If not, okay.”

A Methodist and the daughter of an engineer at Southern Bell, Nancy Konigsmark Jordan, 32, was born in Atlanta. She met her husband in 1966 in the Kappa Delta sorority house at the University of Georgia, where both were students, and she later enlisted in Carter’s first, unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. She and Jordan kept in touch, and four years later he called her in to work on political contributions and thank-you notes. Eventually, he popped the question. “When he asked me,” she recalls, “I knew right away that I wanted to marry him.” The wedding was planned so quickly that she had to borrow bridesmaids’ dresses.

Mrs. Jordan taught children with learning problems at an Atlanta private school until 1972. She took up campaigning again full-time in 1975 when Carter set his sights on Washington. She was an organizer of the Carter Peanut Brigade and admits that “our married life has been mostly in campaigns. I guess after we have children, we’ll just carry a child on each arm.” (Mrs. Jordan recently suffered a miscarriage, which friends say left her measurably subdued.) A lukewarm women’s lib advocate, she hopes to work as a volunteer in Rosalynn Carter’s mental health program but doesn’t expect—or require—recognition. “I don’t need aides or an office,” she says. “I’m happy to work if I’m effective.”

No social butterfly (“We only went to one official party when Jimmy was governor”), Mrs. Jordan is a sometime jogger who enjoys tennis and swimming, doesn’t read a great deal and likes to watch television (Hollywood Squares and Mary Tyler Moore).

Jordan has an amiable disposition, she says, and is as tolerant of her foibles as she is of his. “I’m neat; he’s not,” she says. “My mother said I would never change him and she was right. I just say, ‘Don’t throw the wet towel on the furniture. It’ll ruin the wood.’ And if he says, ‘Get me a Diet Rite,’ I get it. Because if he gets it, it spills.”

A baker’s daughter checks in at the Waldorf

Among the families of transplanted public servants in the Carter administration, none faces more wrenching changes than Jean and Andrew Young. While the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 44, lives in the luxurious 10-room suite in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, Jean, 43, and her two youngest children remain in Atlanta in their modest home. But when school ends in June, the family will be reunited. “The dining room is a banquet hall,” says Jean of their Waldorf aerie. “It surely won’t be like our old suburban life, but we’ll make a home out of it.”

Daughter of a baker and candy maker in tiny Marion, Ala. (and great-granddaughter of a slave), she has coped with major disruptions in their lives before. In 1961 the Youngs left New York and his sedate post with the National Council of Churches to join the gathering civil rights struggle in the South. “We couldn’t just sip wine in Queens, watching black kids in the South get beat across the head on TV,” she recalls. She and her two oldest children walked the first few miles with Young on the famous 1965 march to Selma. She also deployed her own children to test admission policies of Atlanta private schools in 1962. A tireless campaigner for her husband, she stayed in Atlanta to run the household nearly single-handed during his four years in Congress.

The black-tie world of diplomatic New York creates problems. The salaries of a congressman and U.N. ambassador are the same ($44,600), but Young will give up his allowance for 26 round trips to Georgia and his lecture fees of $10,000 a year. Of their children, Paula, 15, and Bo, 4, will attend the U.N. school, while Andrea, 21, is at Georgetown Law School and Lisa, 19, is a Purdue sophomore working temporarily in Washington in applied physics. “Finding someone for Bo to play with is a worry,” Jean acknowledges. “He can’t just go outside like he does around home now.” She hopes her professional skills—teaching remedial reading and doing public relations at Atlanta Junior College—can be transferred to New York. “Mrs. Scranton [wife of the outgoing ambassador] explained some of the expectations,” Jean says. “I can set my own pace in terms of entertaining.”

She seems least worried about her husband’s success in his new job, despite his recent feather-ruffling remarks about Africa and Kissinger. “Andrew,” admits loyalist Jean, “tends to express his convictions strongly.” Her main concern is the possible loss of roots. “There’s so much to learn from New York,” she says. “It’s a sophisticated city, but if you’re not careful, you can allow other people’s values to influence you. I hope I can maintain my own.”

‘For God and family’ is LaBelle Lance’s credo

LaBelle Lance, 45, the wife of Carter’s management and budget director, is an old-fashioned girl. She is the mother of four, Red Cross Gray Lady, former Cub Scout den mother, garden-clubber and devout Methodist. Though husband Bert, 45, is a self-made millionaire (his salary is $46,800 in his new post), she’s an unreconstructed bargain hunter who has decided not to hire any help to clean the two-bedroom home they’ve rented in Georgetown. “I never felt the need to be liberated,” she declares. “As Bert says, ‘Attitude is everything.’ I think housework is good exercise.”

Born into a prominent family in tiny Calhoun, Ga. (pop. 5,000), LaBelle was named after her grandmothers—Lena Belle and Lilla Belle. She met Bert in sixth grade—and married him seven years later in 1950. Despite all her civic activities and some substitute teaching, she says, “I really did full-time children.” They still have a farm and home in Calhoun, as well as a 50-odd-room mansion in Atlanta and a beach house at Sea Island, Ga. Moving to Washington has upset their “strong family unit,” she laments. Bertram Jr., 25, his wife, Patty, and brother Stuart, 17, are staying in the Atlanta manse, and Beverly, 15, has moved in with relatives in Calhoun. “It didn’t seem like a good time to move them,” LaBelle says. (David, 22, a graduate of Emory University, his dad’s alma mater, is studying banking in Chicago.)

She credits her adjustment to Washington to her Christian faith. She reads two pages of the Bible every night and lots of novels “unless they’re ugly, like Forever Amber.” A self-described “very poor fourth at tennis,” her hobbies are sewing (mainly curtains), walking and writing inspirational poetry. She has two volumes in the works, Strength for These Days and Advice for Living. One 56-page opus called A Story from God by His Servant LaBelle went out last year as her Christmas card. (“Once upon a time / before the world was made / God looked down / through the shade / and he decided to plan / to make a special land…”) “It was an inspired poem,” she says, “so it was very easy to do.” Though 5’5″ La-belle and her 6’4″ husband usually see eye to eye, she admits, “I can make him mad by fussing when he comes home late. Anytime I can be with him is the highlight of my day.”

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