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Politician & Activist

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter is an American politician, philanthropist, and former farmer who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.

Since leaving the presidency, Carter has remained active in the private sector; in 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.

  • Full name: James Earl Carter Jr.
  • Profession: American politician, 39th U.S. President
  • Born: 1 October 1924 (age 95 years), Plains, Georgia, United States
  • Presidential term: 20 January 1977 – 20 January 1981
  • Vice president: Walter Mondale (1977–1981)
  • Party: Democratic Party
  • Height: 1.77 m
  • Spouse: Rosalynn Carter (m. 1946)
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About Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was born on 1 October 1924, at the Wise Sanitarium (now the Lillian G. Carter Nursing Center) in Plains, Georgia, a hospital where his mother was employed as a registered nurse. Carter was the first U.S. president to be born in a hospital.

He was the eldest son of Bessie Lillian (née Gordy) and James Earl Carter Sr. Carter is a descendant of English immigrant Thomas Carter, who settled in Virginia in 1635.

Numerous generations of Carters lived as cotton farmers in Georgia. Carter is also a descendant of Thomas Cornell, an ancestor of Cornell University’s founder, and is distantly related to Richard Nixon and Bill Gates.

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Plains was a boomtown of 600 people at the time of Carter’s birth. Carter’s father was a successful local businessman, who ran a general store, and was an investor in farmland.

He previously served as a reserve second lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps during World War I.

The family moved several times during Carter Jr.’s infancy. The Carters settled on a dirt road in nearby Archery, which was almost entirely populated by impoverished African American families.

They eventually had three more children: Gloria, Ruth, and Billy. Carter got along well with his parents, although his mother worked long hours and was often absent in his childhood.

Although Earl was staunchly pro-segregation, he allowed his son to befriend the black farmhands’ children. Carter was an enterprising teenager who was given his own acre of Earl’s farmland where he grew, packaged, and sold peanuts. He also rented out a section of tenant housing that he had purchased.

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Carter attended the Plains High School from 1937 to 1941. By that time, Archery and Plains had been impoverished by the Great Depression, but the family benefited from New Deal farming subsidies, and Earl took a position as a community leader.

Young Jimmy was a diligent student with a fondness for reading. A popular anecdote holds that he was passed over for valedictorian after he and his friends skipped school to venture downtown in a hot rod.

Carter’s truancy was mentioned in a local newspaper, although it is not clear he would have been valedictorian anyway.

Carter’s teacher, Julia Coleman, was an especially strong influence. As an adolescent, Carter played on the Plains High School basketball team; he also joined the Future Farmers of America and developed a lifelong interest in woodworking.

Career

Raised in Plains, Georgia, Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and joined the United States Navy, where he served on submarines.

After the death of his father in 1953, Carter left his naval career and returned home to Georgia to take up the reins of his family’s peanut-growing business.

Carter inherited comparatively little due to his father’s forgiveness of debts and the division of the estate among the children.

Nevertheless, his ambition to expand and grow the Carters’ peanut business was fulfilled. During this period, Carter was motivated to oppose the political climate of racial segregation and support the growing civil rights movement.

He became an activist within the Democratic Party. From 1963 to 1967, Carter served in the Georgia State Senate, and in 1970, he was elected as Governor of Georgia, defeating former Governor Carl Sanders in the Democratic primary on an anti-segregation platform advocating affirmative action for ethnic minorities. Carter remained as governor until 1975.

Despite being a dark-horse candidate who was little known outside of Georgia at the start of the campaign, Carter won the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination.

In the general election, Carter ran as an outsider and narrowly defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford.

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On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all the Vietnam War draft evaders. During Carter’s term as president, two new cabinet-level departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were established.

He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology.

In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and the return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama.

On the economic front, he confronted persistent stagflation, a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth.

The end of his presidential tenure was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In response to the invasion, Carter escalated the Cold War when he ended détente, imposed a grain embargo against the Soviets, enunciated the Carter Doctrine, and led a 1980 Summer Olympics boycott in Moscow.

In 1980, Carter faced a challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy in the primaries, but he won re-nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

Carter lost the general election to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan in an electoral landslide. Polls of historians and political scientists usually rank Carter as an average president; he often receives more positive evaluations for his post-presidential work.

In 1982, Carter established the Carter Center to promote and expand human rights. He has travelled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, monitor elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations.

Carter is considered a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity charity. He has written over 30 books ranging from political memoirs to poetry while continuing to actively comment on ongoing American and global affairs, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The earliest-serving of the five living U.S. presidents, Carter is the longest-lived president, the longest-retired president, the first to live forty years after their inauguration, and the first to reach the age of 95.