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Gloria Carter Spann, 63; Sister of Ex-President

March 06, 1990|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gloria Carter Spann, the last of Jimmy Carter's siblings, died Monday of pancreatic cancer, the same disease that killed her father, sister and brother.

The motorcycle-riding, harmonica-playing, fun-loving younger sister of the former President was 63 and her ailment, which is almost always fatal, had been diagnosed in December.

Pancreatic cancer killed her father, James Earl Carter, when he was in his 50s; her sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, who was 54 when she died in 1983; and her other brother, Billy Carter, who was 51 when he died in 1988.

Her mother, Lillian Carter, had breast cancer that had spread to other organs, including the pancreas, when she died in 1983.

Mrs. Spann, who lived in nearby Plains, died about 1 a.m. at Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus, according to her husband, Walter. Relatives said she had been hospitalized for several weeks.

The 65-year-old former President was at the hospital when Mrs. Spann died, said Sybil Carter, the widow of Billy Carter.

"It's very sad for all of us. It's just something we don't understand," Mrs. Carter told the Associated Press. "Our family is grieved and saddened."

Named the Most Outstanding Female Motorcyclist in the nation in 1978, Mrs. Spann, like the rest of the outgoing Carters, seemed to thrive on attention while insisting she was really "shy and retiring."

She and her husband owned as many as five motorcycles, which they kept at their peanut farm and rode on weekends with friends or fellow members of the Georgia Motorcycle Rights Organization.

At other times she taught art classes at night or kept books for the city of Plains.

Her late sister was a minister and she alluded to herself as a "Jesus freak," but disdained the "born again" philosophy of brother Jimmy, saying she considered it "tacky."

Although she fretted over her lack of privacy after Jimmy Carter launched his presidential bid in 1976, she acquiesced in the demand for interviews and seemed to delight in showing off her farm, her husband and her motorcycle jacket--which said "Bad News" on the back.

During the campaign she and seven other investors hawked one-square-inch lots of peanut-farming land in Plains for $5 a lot, bringing an angry disclaimer from Jimmy who denounced it as a "fast-buck shyster scheme."

She and her husband did not attend the Democratic National Convention where Carter was nominated, adding to reports of a rift between them, which she denied.

Mrs. Spann will be buried today at a graveside service in Plains after a funeral procession led by motorcyclists.

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