Billy Carter, known to millions as the wisecracking brother of the nation's 39th president, was eulogized as a courageous man who was prepared to devote his life helping others fight alcoholism.

"Billy Carter was struck down in the prime of his life," country singer Tom T. Hall said in the eulogy at a graveside ceremony Monday. "He was just beginning a new chapter. He was planning his travels to help others take charge of their lives."Carter, 51, died Sunday of pancreatic cancer, the disease that killed his father and an older sister.

About 500 mourners gathered at the Lebanon Cemetery to pay their last respects to Carter, who was thrust into the national spotlight after his older brother, Jimmy, became president in 1977.

The younger Carter became well known for his down-home and often irreverent witticisms and his beer-drinking at a service station he once owned in Plains.

Billy Carter's widow, Sybil, and the couple's six children were seated in front of Carter's cherry casket, which was covered by a blanket of exotic flowers and surrounded by dozens of wreaths.

In the crowd were Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who lived next door to Billy Carter. The former president said his relationship with his brother, strained during his years in the White House, improved in later years.

"We worked together for many years, side by side. While I was president, we went in opposite directions, but in the last year, we've just been friends," he said.