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If you like Jimmy Carter's story, you might also like:
Norman Borlaug,
George H.W. Bush,
Johnnetta Cole,
Millard Fuller,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Frank M. Johnson,
Shimon Peres,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Robert S. Strauss
and Andrew Young

Jimmy Carter's recommended reading: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Jimmy Carter also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Jimmy Carter in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
What is a Leader
Global Conflicts

Related Links:
Jimmy Carter Library
The White House

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Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
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Jimmy Carter Biography

Nobel Prize for Peace

Jimmy Carter Date of birth: October 1, 1924

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  Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
James Earl Carter, Jr. was born in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., known as Earl, was a farmer and businessman. His mother, Lillian, was a registered nurse. When Jimmy Carter was four years old, the family moved to a farm in the nearby community of Archery. Jimmy Carter has described the world of his childhood movingly in his 2001 book, An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood. Although the Carter family home lacked both electricity and running water, the Carters were one of the more prosperous families in the community. Most of their neighbors -- and young Jimmy's playmates in Archery -- were African American, but the rigid code of segregation required the separation of the races in school, in church and other public places. Carter's mother, Lillian, flouted the custom by volunteering her services as midwife and health practitioner to her neighbors. His father carried on the more traditional role of the Southern landowner, eventually expanding his holdings to 4,000 acres, worked by mostly black tenant farmers. Earl Carter expanded his business dealings as peanut broker, warehouseman and retailer of farm supplies and equipment.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
Jimmy Carter was educated in the Plains public schools, and studied at Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology before entering the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1946. Shortly after graduation, he married Rosalynn Smith of Plains, Georgia.

After serving on conventional submarines in both the Atlantic and Pacific, Carter joined the Navy's pioneering nuclear submarine program. After graduate studies in nuclear physics at Union College in Schenectady, New York, Carter was selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover to serve as engineering officer of the Sea Wolf, America's second nuclear submarine.

Carter had reached the rank of full Lieutenant when his military career was cut short by the death of his father. In 1953, Carter resigned his commission, and returned with his wife and three sons to Plains to run the family's farm and continue his father's warehouse business, selling fertilizer and farm supplies. Rosalynn, who initially resisted the move back to Plains, became the firm's bookkeeper, and over the next years, Carter's Warehouse grew into a profitable general-purpose seed and farm supply operation.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
At the time of his death at age 59, Earl Carter was serving in the Georgia House of Representatives, and Jimmy Carter too felt an obligation to serve his community. He was elected chairman of the Sumter County school board and then first president of the Georgia Planning Association. At the time, Georgia, like the rest of the South, was wracked with controversy over school desegregation. Carter entered the Democratic primary for the Georgia State Senate in 1962 as a moderate, seeking to counter the influence of the state's strong segregationist faction. Carter's opponents made a crude attempt to steal the election, registering fictitious voters in alphabetical order and recording the votes of persons long deceased. Carter exposed the fraud in court and took his seat in the Georgia Senate. Once in office, Carter proved himself one of the most able and dedicated members of the body and was easily re-elected to a second term. He has provided a fascinating account of these events in his 1992 book, Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age.

Jimmy Carter lost his first race for Governor of Georgia in 1966, defeated by arch-segregationist Lester Maddox. A period of reflection followed, in which Carter, encouraged by his evangelist sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, experienced a religious awakening. Until this time, by his own account, he was a "superficial" Christian. Afterwards, he described himself as "born again," words that many Americans would hear for the first time when Jimmy Carter made his entrance on the national stage.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
Four years after his defeat, Carter ran for Governor again and won. As Governor of Georgia, Carter worked hard to heal the state's racial divisions, announcing in his inaugural address that "the time for racial discrimination is over." It was an unprecedented statement for a Southern governor, but Carter made good on his words. He increased the number of African American state employees by 40 percent and hung portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and other notable black Georgians in the state capitol. He equalized the funding of schools in rich and poor districts of the state, and created new educational facilities for prisoners and the developmentally disabled. He also streamlined the state's administration and budgeting procedures, eliminating many government agencies and canceling a number of wasteful and environmentally destructive building projects. Governor Carter's reputation for efficient administration, combined with his progressive record on civil rights, caught the attention of the national Democratic Party. At the 1972 convention, he made the nominating speech for Senator Henry Jackson.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
In 1973, Governor Carter became the Democratic National Committee campaign chairman for the 1974 congressional elections. In the wake of President Nixon's resignation, and President Ford's preemptive pardon of his predecessor, the Democrats enjoyed exceptional success in the 1974 congressional election. Barred by the Georgia constitution from running for a second term as Governor, Jimmy Carter announced his decision to run for President of the United States. With the 1976 election still two years away, Carter's decision seemed foolishly premature to many observers. A flock of better-known candidates crowded the field over the next two years, but Carter steadily lay the groundwork for his campaign, shaking hands and speaking to small crowds across the country. He made a special effort in Iowa, with its first-in-the-nation delegate selection caucuses.

His 1975 autobiography, Why Not the Best?, introduced Carter to a wider public. To an electorate disenchanted with the established leadership of both parties in Washington, Jimmy Carter promised "a government as good and as competent and as compassionate as are the American people." With his serene optimism, unpretentious manner and engaging smile, Carter began to capture the public's imagination. After a startling victory in the Iowa caucuses, he defeated better-known candidates in primary after primary, steadily eliminating every possible rival for the nomination. Carter's Southern origin and unabashed faith were powerful factors in helping him to unite antagonistic factions of his party. He won the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the party's convention in New York City's Madison Square Garden.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
The general election in 1976 was a close contest, but most historians agree that the three televised debates between Carter and incumbent President Gerald Ford helped put Carter over the top. Jimmy Carter was the first candidate from the Deep South to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848. At his inauguration, Carter broke with precedent by walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with Rosalynn instead of riding in a limousine, as his predecessors had done. Carter's down-to-earth style manifested itself in many small ways, such as his insistence on carrying his own garment bag when boarding Air Force One. He continued to teach Sunday school classes in Washington, as he had in Plains, and sent his daughter Amy to a public school in Washington. One of his first priorities as president was to heal a lingering wound of the Vietnam War. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order granting amnesty to those who had evaded the military draft during the Vietnam War, an amnesty that did not extend to deserters.

As President, Carter oversaw a reorganization of several executive branch departments to reflect his domestic priorities. The existing Department of Health, Education and Welfare was divided into two cabinet-level entities, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. A new, cabinet-level Department of Energy was created. Throughout his term, President Carter sought to coordinate a national policy of energy conservation to reduce America's reliance on imported oil. At the same time, he pursued deregulation of transportation, communications, and finance.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
Many of the Carter administration's most noteworthy accomplishments came in the field of foreign affairs. President Carter established full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and made good on a long-standing American promise to return control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians. After negotiating the necessary treaties with Panama, Carter prevailed in an exceptionally contentious ratification fight in the Senate.

The outstanding achievement of the Carter presidency was the peace settlement between Israel and Egypt. Over 13 days of meetings at the presidential retreat, Camp David, Carter persuaded President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to end the 31-year state of war between their countries. Egypt was the first of Israel's Arab neighbors to make peace with the Jewish state. Israel ended its occupation of the Sinai peninsula and returned control of the territory to Egypt. President Carter later published his reflections on the Middle East conflict in his 1985 book, The Blood of Abraham.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
President Carter also negotiated a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) with the Soviet Union, but before the Senate could vote to ratify the treaty, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter withdrew the treaty from consideration. The two superpowers agreed informally to abide by the terms of the treaty, even though neither side ever ratified it officially.

The 1979 revolution in Iran provided the most trying foreign policy challenges of the Carter presidency. After the victory of a fundamentalist Islamic faction in the Iranian revolution, radical students seized the American embassy and held American diplomatic personnel hostage, while demanding that the United States deliver the deposed Shah of Iran, who had sought medical care in the United States. Even after the Shah's departure from the United States and his subsequent death in Cairo, the government of Iran refused to return the American hostages. After an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the captive Americans, President Carter was able to secure the Iranian government's agreement to release the hostages, but not until after he had been defeated for re-election by Ronald Reagan.

Since leaving office, Jimmy Carter has been the most active of ex-presidents. In 1982, he became University Distinguished Professor at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and in partnership with the University, founded the Carter Center to resolve conflicts, promote democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease around the world. Since 1989, observers from the Carter Center have monitored more than 70 elections in dozens of countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Former President Carter and the Carter Center have also mediated civil conflicts and international disputes involving Ethiopia and Eritrea, North Korea, Liberia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Uganda, Venezuela, Nepal, Ecuador and Colombia.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were early supporters of Millard and Linda Fuller, founders of Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps build homes for the needy in the United States and in other countries. President Carter has long served on the board of directors of Habitat, and the Carters themselves still volunteer with the organization for one week every year. Jimmy Carter also teaches Sunday school and is a deacon in the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains.

Former President Carter's personal diplomacy has helped to defuse international crises in hot spots from North Korea to Haiti. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Following Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he was the third American president to be so honored. The Nobel committee cited former President Carter "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

Most ex-presidents publish a volume of memoirs or two, but Jimmy Carter has carried on an impressive career as an extremely prolific and successful author. Since leaving the White House he has published more than two dozen books. In addition to his presidential memoir Keeping Faith, written shortly after he left office, he has written memoirs of childhood, books on religion, spirituality, aging and family life, a volume of verse, and a historical novel, The Hornet's Nest, set in the South during the Revolutionary War. One of his his most popular and highly praised books is An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood.

Jimmy Carter Biography Photo
Jimmy Carter received both praise and condemnation for his second book on the Middle East conflict, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006). He recounted his life after leaving office in a 2007 memoir, Beyond the White House, and paid a moving tribute to Lillian Carter in A Remarkable Mother (2008). In Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis (2005), he returned to the theme of morality in political leadership. His first concern, from the day he entered public life, it is the quality of moral leadership that has given Jimmy Carter a unique role among all the men who have held the office of President of the United States.

In the summer of 2015, Carter published his 25th book A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety. A few weeks later announced that he would undergo radiation therapy for a cancer that had reached his brain. He had first received a cancer diagnosis after having a small tumor removed from his liver earlier in the year. Given the nature of his diagnosis and his advanced age, it might have been expected that the former president would retire from public view. Instead he held a press conference to discuss his diagnosis and treatment. "I have had a wonderful life," he told he assembled reporters. "I'm ready for anything and I'm looking forward to new adventure." Recalling his 30-year campaign to eradicate the guinea worm, a parasite that causes untold misery in Asia and Africa, he remarked, "I'd like for the last guinea worm to die before I do." As to how long he might expect to live, he said, "It is in the hands of God, whom I worship."

Although he admitted that he planned to curtail his travel and some other activities, he still planned to visit Nepal on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, and on the Sunday following his press conference he taught Sunday School in Plains, Georgia, as he had nearly every week since leaving office. In his 90th year, the former President's courage, grace and humility continued to win the praise and admiration of men and women around the world.

This page last revised on Aug 24, 2015 18:44 EDT
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