Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

39th President, 1977-1981

Early Life and Pre-presidency

White House photograph of Carter, 1977

White House photograph of Carter, 1977

  • Born James Earl Carter, Jr. on October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia.
  • Parents: James Earl Carter and Bessie Lillian Gordy. Siblings: William Alton, Gloria, and Ruth.
  • Graduated class valedictorian from Plains High School in 1941.
  • Enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, Georgia and studied for one year, then studied at Georgia Institute of Technology from 1942 to 1943.
  • Admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943 and graduated in 1947. He worked in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program. He resigned his commission and was discharged from the Navy in October 1953.
  • Married Eleanor Rosalynn Smith (1927–) on July 7, 1946. Children: John William (1947–), James Earl III (1950–), Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff) (1952–), and Amy Lynn (1967–).
  • When a nuclear reactor at the Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories had a partial meltdown in December 1952, Carter was the officer-in-charge of the American team that helped in shutting it down. The team disassembled the reactor by being lowered into it to remove the parts piece by piece.
  • After his father’s death in July 1953, he returned to Plains to take over his father’s peanut farm and had become very prosperous by 1970.
  • Elected to a seat on the Sumter County Board of Education in 1955.
  • Elected to a seat on the Georgia State Senate in 1962 and served from 1963 to 1967.
  • Ran for Governor of Georgia in the 1966 election but lost. He ran again in 1970 and won. He served from 1971 to 1975.
  • As Governor of Georgia, he fought against racial segregation by appointing many African–Americans to state government positions.
  • As Governor, he also reduced the number of agencies in the state from 300 to 30 by coalescing several small agencies into big ones in order to improve bureaucracy.
  • Nominated as the Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in the 1976 election with Walter F. Mondale as his running mate.
  • Won the 1976 Presidential election with 50.1% of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral votes.

Presidency

Jimmy Carter with George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, November 2004

Jimmy Carter with George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, November 2004

  • Took his oath of office on January 20, 1977 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • When he assumed office, the country was experiencing high inflation, a recession, and an energy crisis.
  • Signed the Emergency Natural Gas Act in February 1977, which gave him the authority to regulate natural gas prices.
  • Signed the The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 in August creating the Department of Energy.
  • Signed the Torrijos–Carter Treaties on September 7, 1977 in Washington, D.C. The two treaties related to the control of the Panama Canal Zone, which was then under the United States’ control. The two treaties ensured that Panama would gain control of the Canal after 1999.
  • In September 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt met at Camp David to discuss a peaceful resolution to the two nations’ conflict with President Carter mediating. The two leaders would sign the Camp David Accords on September 17, which later led to the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in 1979.
  • Signed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 in October. The law removed government control of airline fares and routes as well as the control of the entry of new airlines.
  • Signed the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, or Law H.R. 5860, in January, which bailed out the troubled Chrysler Corporation.
  • Signed the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) with the Soviet Union in June 1979. The treaty sought to reduce the manufacture of nuclear weapons by both countries.
  • Signed a bill establishing the Department of Education on October 17, 1979.
  • On November 4, 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage. An attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, called “Desert One,” failed with the death of several U.S. military personnel. The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, Carter’s last day in office.
  • When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, Carter asked Congress to table the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) treaty with the Soviet Union, which the U.S. had already signed but had not been ratified by the Senate.
  • Carter and the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the Afghanistan invasion.
  • In answer to the energy crisis, Carter signed the National Energy Act of 1978 in November. The Act was a package of laws that included the Energy Tax Act, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, and the National Energy Conservation Policy Act.
  • Ran for a second term in the 1980 election but lost to Republican Ronald Reagan.

Post-presidency

Carter speaking at the LBJ Library, 2011 Courtesy U.S. National Archives

Carter speaking at the LBJ Library, 2011
Courtesy U.S. National Archives

  • Retired to his peanut farm in Plains, Georgia.
  • Established the Carter Center in 1982 in collaboration with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Through his Carter Center, Carter has served as an unofficial ambassador working to resolve international disputes in the Middle East, particularly the Israel–Palestine conflict, with North Korea, and in Africa.
  • The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia was opened and dedicated on October 1, 1986.
  • Went to North Korea in 1994 on behalf of President Bill Clinton to persuade Kim Il-Sung to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Carter succeeded in negotiating a treaty between the U.S. and North Korea, called the Agreed Framework, which was signed in October 1994.
  • Traveled to Haiti in 1994 with Gen. Colin Powell and Sen. Sam Nunn to meet with military offficials who overthrew the Haiti President in a coup d’etat in 1991. The purpose of the mission was to avert an American invasion of Haiti to restore to power its democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
  • In 1999, brokered a deal between the Presidents of Uganda and Sudan to resolve the conflict in northern Uganda. The deal was called the Nairobi Agreement.
  • Severed ties with Southern Baptist Convention in October 2000 over its decision to bar women from becoming pastors.
  • Visited Cuba in May 2002 and met with Fidel Castro. He was the first U.S. President to visit the country since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 that brought Castro to power.
  • Received the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
  • In July 2007, Carter announced his participation in The Elders, a group of former world leaders working on issues concerning peace and human rights.
  • Visited Vietnam in 2009 to build houses for the poor as part of the project of Habitat for Humanity International.
  • Has written 21 books post-presidency.
  • Serves as honorary chair for the Continuity of Government Commission.
  • Is the longest-lived President, post-presidency, at 32 years.