Mary Prince (nanny)

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Mary Prince (born 1945; also called by her married name Mary Fitzpatrick[1] until the couple officially separated in 1979[2]) is an African American woman wrongly convicted of murder who then became the nanny for Amy Carter, the daughter of US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter, and was eventually granted a full pardon.[3][4]

Early life and family[edit]

She was born "in stark rural poverty" in 1945 in Richland, Georgia, the second of three sisters. She can't remember her father, and her mother and stepfather separated when she was aged about 9. Her older sister Carrie Francis died of a brain abscess when Mary was 12, after which she dropped out of school to look after her younger sister. She briefly married at age 14, and had her first son. A year later she began work as a domestic. She became pregnant with her second son in New York in 1964, before returning to Georgia in 1967, where she eventually became a cashier in a restaurant.[1]

When she lived and worked in the White House, her sons stayed in an apartment in the working-class Washington suburb of Suitland, Maryland and were looked after by her sister during the day, while she took a taxi to take care of them in the evening before returning by taxi to the White House late at night to be up early for Amy.[2] She officially separated from her husband in 1979, and changed her name back from Mary Fitzpatrick to Mary Prince.[2] She is a devout Christian.[2]

Conviction for murder[edit]

She was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murdering another woman's boyfriend in April 1970 in Lumpkin, Georgia.[1][2]

She and her cousin Aniemaude had gone into a bar in Lumpkin, and Aniemaude had got into an argument.[1] In 1977 Mary said: “I went outside and heard a shot. Aniemaude and this woman were fighting over Aniemaude’s gun. I didn’t know anything about guns, but I tried to take it away and it went off. We didn’t know it had hit anyone.”[1] Clare Crawford added: "The other woman, however, claimed that Mary seized the gun and deliberately fired it, killing the woman’s boyfriend."[1]

Prince was defended by a white court-appointed lawyer whom she first met on the day of the trial.[2][1][3] In 1977, she said "I was under the impression I was pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, but it turned out to be murder." Jimmy Carter (in 2005) and Kate Andersen Brower (in 2015) both wrote that her lawyer advised her to plead guilty and promised a light sentence.[2][3] Clare Crawford wrote in 1977 that "Her attorney says that he read the indictment to Mary before she made her plea".[1] Prince said in 1977 that she saw her lawyer twice for 10 or 15 minutes and that she spent a total of less than an hour in court before receiving her life sentence.[1]

Jimmy Carter says Prince was lucky the dead man was not white, as she would then have "likely" suffered the fate of Lena Baker, a black woman pardoned in 2005, 60 years after being executed by electric chair.[3] Rosalynn Carter says that she was convicted because of the color of her skin.[2]

Nanny to Amy Carter[edit]

Prince became Amy's nanny in 1971 while Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia and she was a trustee prisoner assigned to the governor's mansion,[5] after being interviewed in December 1970[1] and chosen that month by Rosalynn Carter to look after Amy because Rosalynn was convinced of her innocence.[2]

In 1975, when Jimmy Carter's term as governor ended, Prince was sent back to prison. However in January 1977 she was able to travel to Washington for Carter's inauguration as U.S. president.[1] Partly thanks to a letter to the parole board by First Lady Rosalynn Carter,[4][2] and partly thanks to Jimmy Carter, who asked to be designated as her parole officer,[3][2] Prince was reprieved, and was able to live and work at the White House for the four years of Carter's presidency.[3][1][2]


She was eventually granted a full pardon after "a reexamination of the evidence and trial proceedings by the original judge revealed that she was completely innocent".[3][4][2]

Later life[edit]

As of 2015, she lives near the Carters in Plains, Georgia, and sees them frequently,[2] and she still sometimes babysits for their grandchildren.[4][2]

Media portrayal[edit]

When she was in the White House, her story was widely reported in the media, and some of the coverage was "not ... kind".[2] The coverage included a skit on Saturday Night Live with Amy played by Sissy Spacek, and Prince played by comedian Garrett Morris in drag.[2]


Jimmy Carter dedicated his 2004 book, Sharing Good Times, to Prince, and discusses her in his 2005 book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, as an example of the dangers of racism and of the death penalty, saying that had the dead man been white, she would "likely" have been wrongfully executed like Lena Baker.[3] Prince is also featured in the 2015 Kate Andersen Brower book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.[4][2]

Political activist and former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur in her Assata An Autobiography (book) creates a critical portrait of Carter's relationship towards Mary Prince, comparing Carter's treatment of Mary as akin to that of a domestic slave and that this is a notable example of how the criminal justice system perpetuates Black and Third World people's enslavement.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Crawford, Clare (14 March 1977). "A Story of Love and Rehabilitation: the Ex-Con in the White House". Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Kate Andersen Brower (2015). The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780062305213. CHAPTER VII - Race and the Residence: ...Mary Fitzpatrick, as she was known at the time, was sentenced to life in prison. (She took back her maiden name in 1979 after officially separating from her husband.) Yet before the year 1970 had come to an end, Prince had been selected by Rosalynn Carter to care for her daughter at the governor’s mansion. Mrs. Carter was convinced that the young woman had been unjustly convicted. “She was totally innocent,” Rosalynn Carter says. Forever loyal to their daughter’s nanny, the Carters have practically adopted her as a member of their family. ... But Mrs. Carter was so confident in Prince’s innocence that she wrote to the parole board and secured her a reprieve so that Amy’s beloved nanny could work for them at the White House. Even more remarkably, the president had himself designated as Prince’s parole officer. Ultimately, after a reexamination of her case, Prince was granted a full pardon.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Jimmy Carter (2005). Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. Simon and Schuster. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-0-7432-8457-8. My last book, Sharing Good Times, is dedicated "to Mary Prince, whom we love and cherish." Mary is a wonderful black woman who, as a teenager visiting a small town, was falsely accused of murder and defended by an assigned lawyer whom she first met on the day of the trial, when he advised her to plead guilty, promising a light sentence. She got life imprisonment instead ... A reexamination of the evidence and trial proceedings by the original judge revealed that she was completely innocent, and she was granted a pardon.
  4. ^ a b c d e Chabbott, Sophia (2015-03-19). "The Residence: Meet the Women Behind Presidential Families Kennedy, Johnson, Carter". Retrieved 2015-05-02. Rosalynn Carter, who believed Prince was wrongly convicted, secured a reprieve so Prince could join them in Washington. Prince was later granted a full pardon; to this day she occasionally babysits the Carters' grandkids.
  5. ^ Jimmy Carter (25 March 2014). The Jimmy Carter Library. Simon & Schuster. pp. 1472–. ISBN 978-1-4767-8527-1.
  6. ^ Shakur, Assata (1987). "3". Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Lawrence Hill. pp. 64–65. ISBN 1-55652-074-3. Once you're in prison, there are plenty of jobs, and, if you don't want to work, they beat you up and throw you in the hole. If every state had to pay workers to do the jobs prisoners are forced to do , the salaries would amount to billions. License plates alone would amount to millions. When Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia, he brought a Black woman from prison to clean the state house and babysit Amy. Prisons are a profitable business. They are a way of legally perpetuating slavery. In every state more and more prisons are being built and even more are on the drawing board. Who are they for? they certainly aren't planning to put white people in them. Prisons are part of this government's genocidal war against Black and Third World people. |access-date= requires |url= (help)