As memorial services for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter take place in late November, including a formal funeral service on Nov. 29 in Plains, Georgia, longtime Eden Prairie residents might remember that she visited EP 45 years ago.
The purpose of the first lady’s half-hour stop in Eden Prairie on Oct. 7, 1978, during a trip to the Twin Cities was to visit the Muriel Humphrey Residences, a set of three group homes – each holding 12 residents – located at the corner of Preserve Boulevard and Anderson Lakes Parkway. The homes were operated by the Louise Whitbeck Fraser School and served young adults with developmental disabilities, including Muriel Humphey’s granddaughter, Vickie Solomonson.
Minnesota statesman Hubert Humphrey had died in January of that year, and his wife Muriel filled his U.S. Senate seat until Nov. 7, 1978, choosing not to seek election. The Humphrey family, years earlier, had lived for a time in Eden Prairie, becoming active in the Eden Prairie Schools and elsewhere in the community.
Carter’s stop in Eden Prairie was documented in the Oct. 12, 1978, Eden Prairie News, the community newspaper that operated from 1974 to 2020, specifically by Dick Dahl, the newspaper’s editor, and Cori Scarbnick, general assignments reporter. Their report noted that the press covering the Eden Prairie stop numbered around 30, nearly as many as the welcoming contingent at Muriel Humphrey Residences.
Carter toured the facility, heard about its programs, and spoke to residents along with Gov. Rudy Perpich and U.S. Sen. Wendell Anderson, who accompanied her. The newspaper’s front page article said Sen. Muriel Humphrey could not attend because of pressing business in Washington, D.C., on the Humphrey-Hawkins Employment Act, legislation which President Carter would sign days later.
Before being whisked away in a limousine by her Secret Service detail, Rosalynn Carter posed with members of the Eden Prairie Police Department, including Officer Tom Brown. And then it was back to normal for 1978-era Eden Prairie.
Today, while one might think of Eden Prairie’s history as being all about the residents and trends that shaped the community, even short-but-notable occasions like Carter’s visit are history, said Kathie Case, president of the Eden Prairie Historical Society.
“History is history. History is anything that’s happened,” she said while helping peruse old editions of the Eden Prairie News, donated to the historical society and stored at the Cummins-Phipps-Grill House. “And this happened in Eden Prairie, so it is in my mind a part of our history that she visited Eden Prairie in 1978, met with different people here in our community, and impacted their lives. And I’m sure it was an incredible story for its time, to have the first lady come to Eden Prairie.”
For a still-small suburb – Eden Prairie had less than 16,000 residents at the time – it was affirmation that this is a good place to live, she added, just as it was when President George W. Bush visited Eden Prairie High School in 2002.
“They’re all memorable events that happened to people who lived here at the time,” said Case. “And they go down in history.”
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