Stars Align: How I Chased Rosalynn Carter Down An Airport Runway and Wasn’t Taken Out by Secret Service

Roger Marsh
Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Walter Mondale at a ceremony welcoming Mrs. Carter back from her Latin American trip.Photo byWikipedia.

Serendipitous Celebrity Encounters

Have you had a chance positive encounter with a celebrity? I’ve had so many, I decided to make a list. And it’s long. This series will feature some of these often very odd or funny situations. And I’d like to tell your story here too.

The year was approximately 1979 and I was fresh out of college with a mass communications degree and had started my own monthly entertainment magazine with offices at Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Locals were buzzing about how President Carter’s wife, our First Lady Rosalynn Carter, would be landing at the airport on her way to an area event. I wondered if I could get close enough to snap a few photographs and perhaps even meet her.

My first move was to make contact with airport management who told me exactly where she was landing — which later turned out to be the furthest spot away from where she was actually landing. But I was smart enough to watch the crowd, and seeing my error, I quickly crossed over to the correct area, camera and business card in hand.

Rosalynn was still on the landed plane when I arrived with a crowd of Secret Service agents waiting on the runway. I was looked at by agents as soon as I arrived, and when one approached, I quickly pulled out my business card showing I was a journalist. Everyone seemed cool.
First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere, and Carter, 1977.Photo byIn Wikipedia.

Then the First Lady came down the plane stairs and was told the pilot should have taxied further across the airport closer to the building she was going into.

She pointed across the airport and asked, “That building?” Rosalynn was clearly upset.

I got my camera into position to shoot and realized a horrifying thing — I had taken the last image on the roll. I had no film.

Now the Secret Service went into a huddle about what to do. I can only think they were attempting to get a vehicle over to the plane and glide the First Lady over to the building perhaps a quarter-mile away.

Then with a look of disgust on her face, Rosalynn Carter took off on foot, by herself, sprinting down the runway toward that building.

And guess what? Among the entire Secret Service detail — no one noticed. Except me. So I did the only thing one would do in this case — I began following the First Lady, running after her. She wasn’t hard to catch up to.

Then a second horrifying thought came over me. What is the Secret Service detail doing? Have they noticed? What will they think when they see me right behind chasing the First Lady? So I quickly looked over my left shoulder right at the moment the Secret Service noticed what was happening. And they all reacted the same way.

Every one of them began running too.

<img src="*c879UjtYt49m2ZPaiOoYjQ.gif" style="width:100%;border-radius:10px;margin-top:0" data-caption="Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Walter Mondale at a ceremony welcoming Mrs. Carter back from her Latin American trip." data-credit="In Wikipedia." data-externalurl=""/>
Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Walter Mondale at a ceremony welcoming Mrs. Carter back from her Latin American trip.Photo byIn Wikipedia.

I could not think what else to do, believing I might be in danger, so I lifted my camera up and began “fake” shooting photos — fully expecting my 22-year-old self had reached its end and I was about to be taken out.

But nothing happened.

Rosalynn and I reached the building first where she was greeted by folks on that end and properly escorted inside. The Secret Service arrived a minute later and I was not questioned.

And crap. No photos. And while the First Lady did size me up once during that run, looking over her right shoulder at me, she paid me no attention then or once she reached her destination. Apparently at 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, I did not appear threatening.

Your Celebrity Story

Looking for fun and positive chance encounters with celebrities. No shaming or bashing — just interesting, strange, wild, or outrageously weird encounters. Keep it short — no more than 300 words. I would be rewriting your story, and using your story to quote you. I would identify you by first name and city-state — so like Cheryl from Ottumwa, Iowa. I will pick the best ones and include them in my column here under one of my own stories. Please send it to:

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ROGER MARSH is a media content producer with works in print, film, television, web, and stage. His “UFO Traffic Reports” published more than 7,000 times since 2009. He was a case researcher for the History channel’s “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.”

Franklinville, NY

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