(WGHP) — When the president of the United States calls, even one who has been out of office for a few years, you have to take the call.

Bob Wilson got one of those calls in the mid-1980s from Jimmy Carter. Wilson and Carter had worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Charlotte. Wilson was a builder and had the construction expertise to big very valuable to the event. 

It went so well that when they moved on to the next location in Pikeville, Kentucky, Carter called Wilson when he didn’t see him there.

“He asked me why I wasn’t there, and I said, ‘Well, I have a business to run Is that a good enough reason?’” Wilson said. “He said, ‘Well, that’s an OK reason, but see if you can clear your calendar and come on up and give us a hand.’”

Wilson went, and that was the beginning of what is now a 40-year friendship.

Wilson joined the Charlotte Habitat project because he thought it was a good fit for the area he called home.

“The North Carolina folks really embraced this idea of finding ways to help low-income people in their community. The project was very successful,” he said. “We were live on the national news three or four times a day…because this was the first time this had really been done.”

Wilson and Carter hit it off right away on the project.

“And from that time to this day, we’ve enjoyed a very special relationship,” Wilson said. “We fished together two or three times a year, and we have for about 15, 20 years. There are four of us who have been fishing together for that time.”

Wilson’s wife Ineka and Roselyn Carter got along just as well, so they did a lot of other things as couples.

“That’s one of the nice things about President and Mrs. Carter: they’re just good people. They’re just folks,” Wilson said. “And I think Jimmy has always seen himself in the presidency like a Jeffersonian person…a man of the people. He is someone who has never forgotten where he came from.”

That place he came from is the small town of Plains, Georgia, which is a town of less than a square mile that had 573 residents in the last census. But that down-home persona it helped forge in Carter has lasted all 98 years of his life. 

Wilson says don’t let that fool you, though. He believes Carter is as smart as any president in his lifetime, and he’s relished the chance to get to know him when reporters aren’t hanging around.

“Having the opportunity to know someone on a personal level when you can ask them about the current political situation and what would you do if you had to confront ISIS for instance. That’s one of those things you have an opportunity to ask,” Wilson said.

But that’s not all.

“I once was bold enough, around a campfire once to ask him what he thought about flying saucers. Where does he think they came from? And he was very crafty in his answer: ‘Where do you think they come from?’ He threw it right back at me,” Wilson said.

The homey side still comes out, though. Wilson once told Carter to make sure to, “just drop by for dinner,” any time they were near the Wilson home in Huntersville. 

In 2018, Carter did stop by.

“They were motor-cading home through the Charlotte area and gave my wife Ineke about 10 minutes warning that they were accepting my invitation to just drop by. We fed them a grilled salmon on salad,” Wilson said.

See pictures of their times together and what Wilson thought about Carter as a president in this edition of The Buckley Report.