Jimmy Carter

American politician, 39th President of the United States (in office from 1977 to 1981)

James Earl Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician and philanthropist. He was the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Before becoming president, Carter was a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967 and the 76th Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.

Jimmy Carter
Carter smiling
Official portrait, 1977
39th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
Vice PresidentWalter Mondale
Preceded byGerald Ford
Succeeded byRonald Reagan
76th Governor of Georgia
In office
January 12, 1971 – January 14, 1975
LieutenantLester Maddox
Preceded byLester Maddox
Succeeded byGeorge Busbee
Member of the Georgia State Senate
from the 14th district
In office
January 14, 1963 – January 10, 1967
Preceded byDistrict created
Succeeded byHugh Carter
ConstituencySumter County
Personal details
James Earl Carter Jr.

(1924-10-01) October 1, 1924 (age 96)
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Rosalynn Smith (m. 1946)
ChildrenJack, James III, Donnel, Amy
ResidencePlains, Georgia, U.S.
EducationUnited States Naval Academy (BS)
Georgia Institute of Technology
Civilian awardsPresidential Medal of Freedom
Nobel Peace Prize
Grammy Award
SignatureCursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1943–1953 (Active)
1953–1961 (Reserve)
RankUS Navy O3 infobox.svg Lieutenant
Military awardsAmerican Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal ribbon.svg China Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal

Born and 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. In 1953, Carter left his naval career and returned home to Georgia to take charge of the family's peanut-growing business. Carter was politically motivated to protest against racial segregation and support the growing civil rights movement. He became an activist within the Democratic Party. From 1963 to 1967, Carter was in the Georgia State Senate, and in 1970, he was elected as Governor of Georgia, beating former Governor Carl Sanders in the Democratic primary. Carter remained as governor until 1975.

At first, he was seen as a dark-horse candidate since not many people knew him outside of Georgia at the start of the presidential campaign, Carter won the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. In the general election, Carter ran as an outsider and beat incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford.

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 were created: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He created a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pushed for 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. However, the economy during his presidency suffered from stagflation, high inflation, high unemployment and slow economic growth. The end of his presidential term was remembered by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1980, Carter ran against Senator Ted Kennedy in the Democratic 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 numbers for his humanitarian work after leaving office.

In 1982, Carter created the Carter Center to focus on human rights across the world. He has traveled to support peace talks, overlook elections, and push for disease prevention and eradication. In 2002, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Carter is seen as a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity charity. He has written over 30 books from political memoirs to poetry. The earliest-serving of the five living American 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.

Early lifeEdit

Carter was born on October 1, 1924, at Lillian Carter Health and Rehabilitation in Plains, Georgia.[1] Carter was the first U.S. president to be born in a hospital.[2] He was the oldest son of Bessie Lillian (née Gordy) and James Earl Carter Sr.[3] He is distantly related to President Richard Nixon and Bill Gates.[4] The family moved several times when Carter was an infant.[5] The Carters settled on a dirt road in nearby Archery.[6]

Carter while in the United States Navy

Carter attended the Plains High School from 1937 to 1941.[7] He also joined the Future Farmers of America and developed a lifelong interest in woodworking.[8][9]

After high school, Carter enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College, in Americus, Georgia.[10] He took extra mathematics courses at Georgia Tech.[11]

In 1943, Carter was accepted to the United States Naval Academy.[12] While at the academy, Carter fell in love with Rosalynn Smith.[13] The two married shortly after his graduation in 1946.[13] He was a sprint football player for the Navy Midshipmen.[14] Carter graduated 60th out of 820 midshipmen in the class of 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned as an ensign.[15][16]

From 1946 to 1953, Carter and Rosalynn lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, New York and California, during his deployments in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.[16] In 1948, he began officers' training for submarine duty.[16] He was promoted to lieutenant junior grade in 1949.[16]

In 1952, Carter began his work with the US Navy's nuclear submarine program.[17] He was sent to the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. for three month temporary duty, while Rosalynn moved with their children to Schenectady, New York.[17][18]

In March 1953, Carter began nuclear power school, a six-month non-credit course covering nuclear power plant operation at Union College in Schenectady.[19] Carter's father died and he was released from active duty to allow him to take over the family peanut business.[20] Carter left active duty on October 9, 1953.[20]

He was in the inactive Navy Reserve until 1961, and left the service with the rank of lieutenant.[21] His awards included the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, China Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.[22]

Farming lifeEdit

Carter's father, James died after having recently been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.[23] For a year, Jimmy, Rosalynn, and their three sons lived in public housing in Plains.[24] Carter is the only U.S. President to have lived in public housing before he took office.[24] Carter wanted to expand the family's peanut-growing business.[25] His first-year harvest failed due to drought, however Carter wanted to open several bank lines of credit to keep the farm going.[25] Meanwhile, he also took classes and read up on agriculture while Rosalynn learned accounting to manage the business's books.[26] Though they barely broke even the first year, the Carters grew the business and became successful.[26][25]

Georgia State Senator, 1963–1967Edit

Carter, who was against racial segregation, was inspired to run for office over the racial tensions in the country.[27] By 1961 he was a known member of the Plains community and the Baptist Church as well as chairman of the Sumter County school board.[28] At the school board, Carter spoke against racial segregation in public schools.[28]

United States representative Bo Callaway was a political enemy of Carter early in his political career

In 1962, Carter announced his run for a seat in the Georgia State Senate.[29] At first, the results showed Carter losing, but this was the result of fraudulent voting done by the Democratic Party chairman in Quitman County.[30] Carter challenged the results; when fraud was confirmed, a new election was held, which he won.[29]

Beginning in 1962, the town of Americus was the site of mass beatings of black protesters.[31] Carter was quiet on the issue at first.[32] He did speak up on a few divisive issues, giving speeches against literacy tests and against a change to the state constitution.[32] At the time of President Kennedy's assassination, Carter was informed by a customer of his peanut business of the killing. Carter later called the assassination "the greatest blow that I had suffered since my father died".[33]

Within two years, his connections in the state senate landed him on the state Democratic Executive Committee, where he helped rewrite the state party's rules.[34] He became chairman of the West Central Georgia Planning and Development Commission.[34]

When Bo Callaway was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1964, Carter wanted to run against him in the next congressional election.[35] The two had fought over which two-year college would be expanded to a four-year college program by the state.[35] Carter wanted it to go to his alma mater, Georgia Southwestern College, but Callaway wanted the funding to go to downtown Columbus.[35]

Carter was re-elected in 1964 to a second two-year term.[36] For a time in the State Senate, he chaired its Education Committee and also sat on the Appropriations Committee toward the end of his second term.[37] Before his term ended he worked on a bill expanding statewide education funding and getting Georgia Southwestern a four-year program.[38] The last day of the term, he announced his run for the United States House of Representatives.[39]

1966 and 1970 gubernatorial campaignsEdit

1970 gubernatorial election results. Carter is blue and Suit is red

At first, Carter ran for the Georgia's 3rd congressional district in 1966 against Bo Callaway.[35] However, Callaway dropped out and decided to run for Governor of Georgia instead.[35] Callaway had just switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1964.[40] Carter later decided to run for governor himself.[35] In the Democratic primary, he unsuccessfully ran against the liberal former governor Ellis Arnall and the conservative segregationist Lester Maddox.[41]

Governor Maddox was not allowed to run for a second consecutive term as governor in 1970.[42] Former governor Carl Sanders became Carter's main opponent in the 1970 Democratic primary.[43] Carter leaned more conservative than before during this primary election.[44]

That September, Carter led Sanders in the first ballot by 49% to 38%, leading to a second round.[45] Carter won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote compared to Sanders's 40%.[46] In the general election, Carter was beat Republican Hal Suit winning 59% of the vote against Suit's 40%.[47]

Governor of Georgia, 1971–1975Edit

Carter became the 76th Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.[48] In his inaugural speech, he said that "the time of racial discrimination is over. ... No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity for an education, a job or simple justice".[48] Time ran a story on the progressive "New South" governors elected that year in a May 1971 issue.[49] The cover of the magazine had an illustration of Carter.[49]

Carter's official portrait as Governor of Georgia, 1971

Lester Maddox, who Carter replaced as governor, became lieutenant governor.[48] Richard Russell Jr., then President pro tempore of the United States Senate, died in office during Carter's second week in office.[50] Carter appointed David H. Gambrell, state Democratic Party chair, to replace Russell's in the Senate.[50]

Carter wanted to expand the governor's authority while making the state government easier to run.[51] He supported a bill allowing him to propose executive restructuring and to force a vote on it.[51][52] The plan was submitted in January 1972, but had a negative reception in the legislature.[51] But after two weeks of negotiations, it was passed.[51] He merged about 300 state agencies into 22 agencies.[53]

In an April 1971 televised appearance, Carter was asked if he was in favor of a requirement that candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Georgia would have to run on the same ticket.[54] He replied, "I've never really thought we needed a lieutenant governor in Georgia. The lieutenant governor is part of the executive branch of government and I've always felt—ever since I was in the state Senate—that the executive branches should be separate".[54] In July 1971, during an appearance in Columbus, Georgia, Carter announced his plans to create a Georgia Human Rights Council that would work toward solving issues in the state ahead of any potential violence.[55]

Governor Carter with Florida Governor Reubin Askew, 1971

In January 1972, Carter wanted the state legislature to give funding for an Early Childhood Development Program along with prison reform programs and 48 million in pay taxes for nearly all state employees.[56] In April 1972, Carter traveled to Latin and South America for a possible trade deal with Georgia.[57] Carter said that he had met with Brazilian President Emílio Garrastazu Médici.[57] Many compared him to President Kennedy.[57]

Carter increased the number of black state employees, judges, and board members.[58] He placed portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. in the capitol building, even as the Ku Klux Klan protested the ceremony.[59] During a televised appearance with Governor of Florida Reubin Askew in January 1973, Carter said he supported a constitutional amendment to ban busing to make the process of desegregation in schools faster.[60] He co-sponsored an anti-busing resolution with George Wallace at the 1971 National Governors Conference.[61] which Carter also hosted.[62] Carter signed a new death penalty law after the United States Supreme Court rejected it.[63] Carter later regretted supporting the death penalty, saying, "I didn't see the injustice of it as I do now".[63]

During the 1972 presidential election, Carter wanted to be George McGovern's running mate

Carter wanted reforms through the legislature that would give equal state aid to schools in the wealthy and poor areas of Georgia.[64] He helped create centers for mentally handicapped children and education programs for convicts.[65][66] He also wrote a program that made appointing federal judges based on their experience rather than political party.[67][68]

In a controversial decision,[69] he vetoed a plan to build a dam on Georgia's Flint River.[70] He argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was not giving the right numbers on the project's cost and its impact on the region.[70] The veto became popular with environmentalists nationwide.[70]

Carter was not allowed to run for re-election because of term limits.[71] Looking toward a possible presidential run, Carter became involved in national politics and public appearances.[72] He was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention, where Carter hoped he would be George McGovern's running mate.[72] He supported Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, to distance himself from George Wallace.[73][74]

In May 1973, Carter warned the Democratic Party to not make the Watergate scandal a political issue.[75]

1976 presidential campaignEdit

Democratic primaryEdit

Campaign flyer from Democratic Party presidential primary

On December 12, 1974, Carter announced his candidacy for President of the United States at National Press Club in Washington, D.C.[76] He talked about inequality, optimism, and change.[77][78]

Carter and President Gerald Ford debating in Philadelphia

When Carter entered the Democratic Party presidential primaries, he was considered to have little chance against better-known politicians.[79] However, by mid-March 1976 Carter was not only polling ahead of the active candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, he also led President Ford by a few percentage points.[79] Carter published Why Not the Best? in June 1976 to help introduce himself to the American public.[80]

Carter became the front-runner early on by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.[79] He used a two-prong strategy: in the South, Carter ran as a moderate and inthe North, Carter was a favorite to conservative Christian and rural voters.[81] He had traveled over 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers), visited 37 states, and delivered over 200 speeches before any other candidate entered the race.[82] Carter ended up winning 30 states, with a total of 6,235,609 (39.2%) of the popular vote.[83] He was formally nominated as the presidential Democratic nominee at the national convention, with U.S. Senator Walter Mondale from Minnesota as his running mate.[84]

During his presidential campaign in April 1976, Carter responded to an interviewer and said, "I have nothing against a community that is ... trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods".[85] His remark was to show support of open-housing laws.[85]

Carter's stated positions during his campaign include public financing of congressional campaigns,[86] his support for the creation of a federal consumer protection agency,[87] creating a separate department for education,[88] signing a peace treaty with the Soviet Union against the usage of nuclear weapon,[89] reducing the defense budget,[90] increasing taxes for the rich and lowering them for the middle class,[91] making multiple amendments to the Social Security Act,[92] and having a balanced budget by the end of his term.[93]

1976 general electionEdit

The electoral map of the 1976 election

Carter and President Gerald Ford were in three televised debates during the 1976 election.[94] The debates were the first presidential debates since 1960.[94][95]

Carter was interviewed by Robert Scheer of Playboy for the November 1976 issue, which hit the newsstands a couple of weeks before the election.[96] While discussing his religion's view of pride, Carter said: "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times".[96][97] He also said in another interview that he did not mind if people said the word "fuck".[98] This led to a media to criticize the idea if politicians should be separated from their political campaigns and their private intimate lives.[98]

Carter began the race with a lead over Ford, who narrowed the gap during the campaign, but lost to Carter in by a small margin on November 2, 1976.[99] Carter won the popular vote by 50.1 percent to 48.0 percent for Ford, and received 297 electoral votes to Ford's 240.[100] Carter won fewer states than Ford, with Carter winning 23 states compared to Ford winning 27.[100]

Presidency, 1977–81Edit

Carter was inaugurated as president on January 20, 1977.[3]

Domestic policiesEdit

Energy crisisEdit

Carter with Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda in 1977

On April 18, 1977, Carter delivered a televised speech declaring that the U.S. energy crisis during the 1970s was like war. He supported energy conservation by all Americans and added solar water heating panels on the White House.[101][102] He wore sweaters because he turned down the heat in the White House.[103] On August 4, 1977, Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, forming the Department of Energy, the first new cabinet position in eleven years.[104] During the signing ceremony, Carter said the current "crisis of energy shortages" made him create the Department of Energy.[105] At the start of a September 1977 news conference, Carter said that the House of Representatives had "adopted almost all" of the energy proposal.[106] The following month, on October 13, Carter stated he believed in the Senate's ability to pass the energy reform bill and said that "the most important domestic issue that we will face while I am in office" was the energy criss.[107]

On January 12, 1978, during a press conference, Carter said the discussions about his energy reform proposal were not being made and that Congress was not being respectful.[108] In an April 11, 1978 news conference, Carter said his biggest surprise "in the nature of a disappointment" since becoming president was the difficulty Congress had in passing legislation for an energy reform bill.[109]

Carter with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, July 1977

On March 1, 1979, Carter proposed a standby gasoline rationing plan at the request of Congress.[110] On April 5, he delivered an address in which he stressed the importance of energy conservation.[111] During an April 30 news conference, Carter said it was important that the House commerce committee approve the standby gasoline rationing plan and called on Congress to pass the several other standby energy conservation plans he had proposed.[112] On July 15, 1979, Carter delivered a nationally televised address in which he said the crisis was a "crisis of confidence" among the American people.[113][114] The address had negative reaction from Americans.[113] memorable for mixed reactions[115][116][117] People criticized Carter for not doing enough to solve the crisis as they believed he was depending too much on Americans.[118]

EPA Love Canal SuperfundEdit

In 1978, Carter declared a federal emergency in the neighborhood of Love Canal in the city of Niagara Falls, New York.[119] During the 1940s, the canal was used as the site to dump 21,800 short tons of chemical products from dyes, perfumes, and solvents for rubber and synthetic resins.[120] More than 800 families were evacuated from the neighborhood, which was built on top of a toxic waste landfill.[119] The Superfund law was created in response to the situation.[121] Carter said that several more "Love Canals" existed across the country, and that discovering such hazardous dumpsites was "one of the grimmest discoveries of our modern era".[122]

In 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that residents near the Love Canal accident showed high white blood cell counts, which may cause leukemia.[123][124][125]


Carter with his wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy

Carter's presidency had an economic history of two periods: the first two years being a time of continuing recovery from the severe 1973–75 recession[126] and the last two years marked by double-digit inflation, with very high interest rates, oil shortages, and slow economic growth.[127] 1977 and 1978 saw the creation of millions of new jobs,[128] in part as a result of the $30 billion economic stimulus legislation.[129]

The 1979 energy crisis ended this period of growth, however, and as both inflation and interest rates rose, economic growth, job creation, and consumer confidence quickly went down.[130] The sudden shortage of gasoline as the 1979 summer vacation season began to increase the problem.[131]

Carter signing the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978

Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act into law on October 24, 1978.[132] The main purpose of the act was to remove government control over fares, routes and market entry (of new airlines) from commercial aviation.[132] The Civil Aeronautics Board's powers of regulation were removed.[132] The Act did not remove the FAA's regulatory powers over all aspects of airline safety.[133]

In 1979, Carter deregulated the American beer industry by making it legal to sell malt, hops, and yeast to American home brewers for the first time since the beginning of Prohibition in the United States.[134] This Carter deregulation led to an increase in home brewing over the 1980s and 1990s that by the 2000s.[135]


Carter with former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, January 1978

During his presidential campaign, Carter wanted healthcare reform.[136]

Carter's proposals on healthcare while in office included an April 1977 mandatory health care cost proposal,[137] and a June 1979 proposal that provided private health insurance coverage.[138] Carter saw the June 1979 proposal as a continued progress in American health coverage made by President Harry Truman and Medicare and Medicaid being introduced under President Lyndon B. Johnson.[139][140] The April 1977 mandatory health care cost proposal was passed in the Senate,[141] and later was not approved in the House.[142]

During 1978, Carter also had meetings with Kennedy for a healthcare law that proved unsuccessful.[143] Carter would later say Kennedy's disagreements as having ruined Carter's efforts to provide a health-care system for the country.[144]


Carter announcing his plans to create the Department of Education, September 1978

Early into his term, Carter worked with Congress to create an education department. In a February 28, 1978 address at the White House, Carter argued, "Education is far too important a matter to be scattered piecemeal among various Government departments and agencies, which are often busy with sometimes dominant concerns".[145] On February 8, 1979, the Carter administration released an outline of its plan to create an education department.[146] On October 17, 1979, Carter formally signed a law that created the United States Department of Education.[147]

Carter expanded the Head Start program with the addition of 43,000 children and families.[148] In a November 1, 1980 speech, Carter said his administration had extended Head Start to migrant children and was "working hard right now with Senator Lloyd Bentsen and with Representative Kika de la Garza to make as much as $45 million available in Federal money in the border districts to help with the increase in school construction for the number of Mexican school children who reside here legally".[149]

Foreign policiesEdit

Peace treatiesEdit

Carter talking about the Panama Canal Treaty, September 1977

In September 1977, Carter and General Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaty.[150] The treaties guaranteed that Panama would gain control of the Panama Canal after 1999, ending the control of the canal that the United States had since 1903.[150] The second treaty said that Panama would assume full control of canal operations and become responsible for its defense.[150] The treaty was criticized by conservative.[150]

In September 1978, Carter formed several political agreements betweem Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David.[151] The two framework agreements were signed at the White House and were witnessed by Carter. The second of these frameworks (A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel) led directly to the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty.

Leaders during the signing of the Camp David Accords, 1978

Historian Jørgen Jensehaugen argued that by the time Carter left office in January 1981, he:

was in an odd position—he had attempted to break with traditional US policy but ended up fulfilling the goals of that tradition, which had been to break up the Arab alliance, side-line the Palestinians, build an alliance with Egypt, weaken the Soviet Union and secure Israel.[152]


In an October 4, 1977 address to African officials at the United Nations, Carter stated the United States's interest to "see a strong and prosperous Africa with as much of the control of government as possible in the hands of the residents of your countries".[153] At a news conference later that month, Carter outlined the United States wanting "to work with South Africa in dealing with the threats to peace in Namibia and in Zimbabwe" and to end racial issues such as apartheid.[154]

Carter with President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, April 1978

Carter visited Nigeria from March 31 to April 3, 1978, the trip being an attempt by the Carter administration to fix relations with the country.[155] He was the first U.S. president to visit Nigeria.[156] Carter wanted to create peace in Rhodesia.[157]

On May 16, 1979, the Senate voted in favor of President Carter lifting economic sanctions against Rhodesia, the vote being seen by both Rhodesia and South Africa "as a potentially fatal blow to the diplomacy that the United States and Britain have pursued in the region for three years and to the effort to reach a compromise between the Salisbury leaders and the guerrillas".[158]

Iran hostage crisisEdit

Carter during a press conference talking about the Iran hostage crisis, September 1980

On November 15, 1977, Carter said that his administration would continue positive relations between the United States and Iran, calling the country "strong, stable and progressive".[159]

On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students took over the United States Embassy in Tehran. The students were in support of the Iranian Revolution.[160] Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for the next 444 days until they were finally freed immediately after Ronald Reagan replaced Carter as President on January 20, 1981. During the crisis, Carter never left the White House for more than 100 days.[161] A month into the affair, Carter stated his plans to resolving the dispute without "any military action that would cause bloodshed".[162] On April 7, 1980, Carter issued Executive Order 12205, adding economic sanctions against Iran[163] and announced more measures by members of his cabinet and the American government that he saw necessary to make sure a safe release.[164][165] On April 24, 1980, Carter ordered Operation Eagle Claw to try to free the hostages. The mission failed, leaving eight American servicemen dead and causing the destruction of two aircraft.[166][167]

Soviet UnionEdit

On February 8, 1977, Carter stated he had wanted the Soviet Union to work with the United States in forming "a comprehensive ban to stop all nuclear testing" and that he was in support of the Soviet Union ceasing deployment of the RSD-10 Pioneer.[168] During a June 13 conference, Carter reported that the United States would "beginning this week to work closely with the Soviet Union" and would negotiate demilitarization of the Indian Ocean with the Soviet Union beginning the following week.[169] At a news conference on December 30, Carter said that the United States and the Soviet Union have made great progress in dealing with a long list of important issues.[170] The talk of a comprehensive test ban treaty led to the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II by Carter and Leonid Brezhnev on June 18, 1979.[171][172]

Communists under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki seized power in Afghanistan on April 27, 1978.[173] Following an uprising in April 1979, Taraki was removed by Khalq rival Hafizullah Amin in September.[174] By December, Amin's government had lost control of much of the country, causing the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan.[173] Carter was surprised by the invasion.[175] In the West, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was seen as a threat to global security. In the aftermath of the invasion, Carter saw the Soviet Union as dangerous. In a televised speech, he announced sanctions on the Soviet Union.[176][177] He created an embargo on grain shipments to the Soviet Union.[178][179] Carter also called for a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.[180] British prime minister Margaret Thatcher supported Carter's tough stance. In early 1980, Carter created a program to arm the mujahideen. The Soviets were unable to fight off the insurgency and withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989.

South KoreaEdit

During a March 9, 1977 news conference, Carter supported his interest in having a withdrawal of American troops from South Korea and stated he wanted South Korea to eventually have "adequate ground forces owned by and controlled by the South Korean Government to protect themselves against any intrusion from North Korea".[181] Carter's withdrawal of troops was criticized by top military officials.[182] On May 26, during a news conference, Carter said he believed South Korea would be able to defend themselves despite the lower number of American troops in the event of conflict.[183] From June 30 to July 1, 1979, Carter held meetings with President of South Korea Park Chung-hee at the Blue House.[184]

1980 presidential electionEdit

Senator Ted Kennedy and Carter in 1977. Kennedy would later be Carter's primary challenger in 1980

Democratic primary challengeEdit

Carter said that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party did not support his policies the most.[185] He said they were caused by Ted Kennedy's plan to replace him as president.[185] Kennedy announced his candidacy in November 1979.[186][187][188] Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and won renomination. However, Kennedy gave Carter weak support from the Liberal Democrats in the fall election.[189] Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale were formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention in New York City.[190]

General electionEdit

Carter and President-elect Ronald Reagan during before Reagan was sworn-in, January 1981

Carter's campaign for re-election in 1980 was one of the most difficult. He faced strong challenges from the right (Republican Ronald Reagan), the center (independent John B. Anderson), and the left (Democrat Ted Kennedy). His campaign manager and former appointments secretary, Timothy Kraft, stepped down some five weeks before the general election because of an allegation of cocaine use.[191] On October 28, Carter and Reagan participated in the only presidential debate of the election cycle.[192] Though initially losing to Carter by several points,[193] Reagan had a surge in polling following the debate.[194]

Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan in a landslide victory.[195] Reagan won 489 of the electoral votes and Carter won 49. In the aftermath of the election, Carter said that he was hurt by the outcome of the election.[196]


The Carters at the state funeral of President George Bush in December 2018

Shortly after losing his re-election bid, Carter told the White House press corps that he wanted his retirement to be similar than that of Harry S. Truman and not use his public life to make himself rich.[197] In October 1986, his presidential library was opened in Atlanta, Georgia.[198]

Carter built homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,[199] and partnered with former presidents to work with One America Appeal to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in the Gulf Coast and Texas communities.[200]

Carter attended the dedication of his presidential library[198] and those of Presidents Ronald Reagan,[201] George H. W. Bush,[202] Bill Clinton,[203][204] and George W. Bush.[205] He delivered eulogies at the funerals of Coretta Scott King[206] Gerald Ford,[207][208] Theodore Hesburgh,[209] and John Lewis.[210] He has attended the state funeral of every former president since he left office: Nixon in 1994, Reagan in 2004, Ford in 2006 and Bush Sr. in 2018.[211][208][212] When going to the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, he became the oldest former president to go to one.[213]

In 1982, Carter founded the Carter Center,[214] a non-governmental and non-profit organization with the purpose of spreading human rights and end human suffering.[215] He wanted to help improve the quality of life for people in more than 80 countries.[216]


Carter talking about his legacy and the work of the Carter Center

In 1994, President Bill Clinton wanted Carter's help in a North Korea peace mission.[217][218] Carter negotiated an understanding with Kim Il-sung, with whom he went on to outline a treaty.[219] Carter traveled to North Korea to help the release of Aijalon Gomes in August 2010, successfully negotiating his release.[220][221] In 2017, Carter said that he had offered himself to the Trump administration as a diplomatic envoy to North Korea to help create a peace treaty.[222]

In October 1984, Carter was named an honorary citizen of Peru.[223] Carter supported the country's elections in 2001,[224] and offering support to the Peruvian government following a meeting with President of Peru Alan García in April 2009.[225]

In his February 1986 talks with Tomás Borge, Carter helped push for the release of journalist Luis Mora and labor leader Jose Altamirano,[226] while touring Nicaragua for three days.[227]

Bolivian President Evo Morales with Carter in 2007

Carter held a tour of Cuba in May 2002 that included meeting with Fidel Castro[228] Carter toured Cuba again for three days in March 2011.[229]

Carter's diplomatic efforts in the Middle East included a September 1981 meeting with Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin,[230] a March 1983 tour of Egypt that included meeting with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization,[231] and a December 2008 meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[232][233]

Carter traveled to Syria in April 2008,[234] laying a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah[235] and denying he had been contacted by the Bush administration in relation to meeting with Hamas leaders.[236]

In July 2007, Carter joined Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, to announce his participation in The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues.[237][238] Carter wanted to travel to Zimbabwe to promote human rights in November 2008, but was stopped by President Robert Mugabe's government.[239]

Carter held summits in Egypt and Tunisia in 1995–1996 to talk about violence in the Great Lakes region of Africa,[240] and played an important role in negotiation of the Nairobi Agreement in 1999 between Sudan and Uganda.[241]

Presidential politicsEdit

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Carter stated his opposition to the Iraq War,[242] and what he called an attempt on the part of Bush and Tony Blair to remove Saddam Hussein through the usage of "lies and misinterpretations".[243] In May 2007, Carter stated the Bush administration "has been the worst in history" in terms of its impact in foreign affairs,[244] Carter criticized the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina.[245]

Carter with Presidents Clinton, Obama, and Bush in 2013

Though he supported President Barack Obama in the early part of his tenure,[246] Carter criticized his use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists, Obama's choice to keep Guantanamo Bay detention camp open,[247] and the current federal surveillance programs.[248][249]

In July 2016, Carter announced his support of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.[250] Carter said that the impact of the 2016 election would "define the US for a generation".[250] He originally supported Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and voted for him during the primaries in 2016.[251]

During the Donald Trump presidency, Carter supported immigration reform through Congress,[252] and criticized Trump for his handling of the national anthem protests.[253]

In September 2019, Carter said he would support an "age-limit" for presidential candidates.[251]

In August 2020, he supported former Vice President Joe Biden for president during a video played at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.[254]

Personal lifeEdit

Carter and Rosalynn Smith were married on July 7, 1946 in the Plains Methodist Church, the church of Rosalynn's family.[255] They have three sons, one daughter, eight grandsons, three granddaughters, and two great-grandsons.[256][257]

The Carters in March 2012

Carter and his wife Rosalynn are well known for their work as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.[258]

Carter's hobbies include painting,[259] fly-fishing, woodworking, cycling, tennis, and skiing.[260] He also has an interest in poetry.[261]

Carter was also a personal friend of Elvis Presley.[262] Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, met him on June 30, 1973, before Presley was to perform onstage in Atlanta.[262] The day after Presley's death, Carter issued a statement and explained how he had "changed the face of American popular culture".[263]

In 2000, Carter ended his membership with the Southern Baptist Convention, saying the group's ideas did not support with his Christian beliefs.

Carter became the oldest to ever attend a presidential inauguration in 2017, at age 92, and the first to live to the 40th anniversary of their own.[264][265] Two years later, on March 22, 2019, he became the nation's longest-lived president.[266] On October 1, 2019, Carter became the first U.S. president to live to the age of 95.[267]


Carter after his fall in October 2019

On August 3, 2015, Carter had surgery to remove "a small mass" on his liver. On August 12, however, Carter announced he had been diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized.[268] On August 20, he said that melanoma had been found in his brain and liver.[269] On December 6, 2015, Carter said that his medical scans no longer showed any cancer.[270]

On May 13, 2019, Carter broke his hip at his Plains home and had surgery in Americus, Georgia.[271] On October 6, 2019, Carter got 14 stitches above his left eyebrow after injuring it during another fall at home.[272] On October 21, 2019, Carter was hospitalized after having a minor pelvic fracture after falling again at home.[273] On November 11, 2019, Carter was hospitalized at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to relieve pressure on his brain.[274] The surgery was successful, and Carter was released from the hospital on November 27.[275][276]

In February 2021, it was announced that Carter and his wife both received their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.[277]


Carter's presidency was at first seen as a failure as in historical rankings of U.S. presidents, the it is ranked from midway to lower bottom.[278][279][280] Although his presidency had some negative criticism, his peace works and humanitarian efforts since he left office have made Carter one of the most successful former presidents in American history.[281][282]

His presidential approval rating was just 31 percent before the 1980 election, but 64 percent approved of his performance as president in a 2009 poll.[283] The Independent wrote, "Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president."[284]


President Bill Clinton honors the Carters with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, August 1999

Carter has had many awards since his presidency. In 1998, the U.S. Navy named the third and last Seawolf-class submarine honoring former President Carter and his service as a submariner officer.[285] That year he also received the United Nations Human Rights Prize, given in honor of human rights achievements,[286] and the Hoover Medal.[287] He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.[288]

Carter has been nominated nine times for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for audio recordings of his books, and has won three times in 2007, 2016 and 2019.[289][290][291][292]

The Souther Field Airport in Americus, Georgia was renamed Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in 2009.[293]

More readingsEdit

  • Califano, Joseph A. Jr. (2007) [1981]. Governing America: An insider's report from the White House and the Cabinet. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-5211-6.
  • Jordan, Hamilton (1982). Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency. Putnam. ISBN 978-0-399-12738-0.
  • Lance, Bert (1991). The Truth of the Matter: My Life in and out of Politics. Summit. ISBN 978-0-671-69027-4.


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