James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States (1977–1981) and was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office. Before he became President, Carter, a Democrat, served as a U.S. Naval officer, was a peanut farmer, served two terms as a Georgia State Senator and one as Governor of Georgia (1971–1975).
During Carter's term as President, he created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. 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 returned the Panama Canal Zone to Panama. He took office during a period of international stagnation and inflation, which persisted throughout his term. 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, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow (the only U.S. boycott in Olympic history), and the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state.
By 1980, Carter's popularity had eroded. He survived a primary challenge against Ted Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1980 election, but lost the election to Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate. On January 20, 1981, minutes after Carter's term in office ended, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444-day Iran hostage crisis.
Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center in 1982, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that works to advance human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. Carter is a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project, and also remains particularly vocal on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.
James Earl Carter, Jr., was born at the Wise Sanitarium on October 1, 1924, in the tiny southwest Georgia city of Plains, near Americus. The first president born in a hospital he is the eldest of four children of James Earl Carter and Bessie Lillian Gordy. Carter's father was a prominent business owner in the community, and his mother was a registered nurse.
Carter has Scots-Irish and English ancestry. One of his paternal ancestors arrived in the American Colonies in 1635. His family has lived in the state of Georgia for several generations. Ancestors of Carter fought in the American Revolution, and he is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Carter's great-grandfather, Private L.B. Walker Carter (1832–1874), served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.
Carter was a gifted student from an early age who always had a fondness for reading. By the time he attended Plains High School, he was also a star in basketball. While he was in high school, he was in the Future Farmers of America (later the National FFA Organization), serving as the Plains FFA Chapter Secretary.
After high school, Carter enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College, in Americus. Later, he applied to the United States Naval Academy and, after taking additional mathematics courses at Georgia Tech, he was admitted in 1943. Carter graduated 59th out of 820 midshipmen at the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree with an unspecified major, as was the custom at the academy at that time. After serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific U.S. Submarine Fleets, Jimmy Carter attended graduate school, majoring in reactor technology and nuclear physics.
Though Carter's father, Earl, died a relatively wealthy man, between his forgiveness of debts and the division of his wealth among heirs, his son Jimmy Carter inherited comparatively little. For a year, due to a limited real estate market, the Carters lived in public housing; Carter is the only U.S. president to have lived in housing subsidized for the poor.
Knowledgeable in scientific and technological subjects, Carter took over the family peanut farm. Carter took to the county library to read up on agriculture while Rosalynn learned accounting to manage the business' financials. Though they barely broke even the first year, Carter managed to expand in Plains. His farming business was successful. By his 1970 gubernatorial campaign, he was considered a wealthy peanut farmer.
Jimmy Carter started his political career by serving on various local boards, governing such entities as the schools, hospitals, and libraries, among others. In the 1960s, he was elected to two terms in the Georgia Senate from the fourteenth district of Georgia.
In 1966, Carter considered running for the United States House of Representatives. His Republican opponent, Howard Callaway, dropped out and decided to run for Governor of Georgia. Carter did not want to see a Republican governor of his state, and joined the race. He lost the Democratic primary, but drew enough votes as a third-place candidate to force the favorite, liberal former governor Ellis Arnall, into a runoff election. A chain of events resulted in the nomination of Lester Maddox, a segregationist Democrat. Maddox was elected as governor of Georgia by the Georgia General Assembly, although he finished a close second in a three-way general election race with Callaway and Arnall, who ran as a write-in candidate. During the primary, Carter ran as a moderate alternative to both the liberal Arnall and conservative Maddox. Although Carter lost, his strong third-place finish was viewed as a success for the little-known state senator.
Carter was sworn in as the 76th Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971, and held this post for one term, until January 14, 1975. At the time, governors of Georgia were not allowed to succeed themselves. His predecessor as governor, Lester Maddox, became the Lieutenant Governor. Carter and Maddox found little common ground during their four years of service, often publicly feuding with each other. In Georgia, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor were not elected as a team.
Carter declared in his inaugural speech that the time of racial segregation was over, and that racial discrimination had no place in the future of the state; he was the first statewide officeholder in the Deep South to say this in public. Carter appointed many African Americans to statewide boards and offices. He was often called one of the "New Southern Governors" – much more moderate than their predecessors, and supportive of racial desegregation and expanding African-Americans' rights.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Georgia's death penalty law in 1972 as unconstitutional, Carter quickly proposed state legislation to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole (an option that previously did not exist). When the Georgia legislature passed a new death penalty statute, Carter, despite expressing reservations about its constitutionality, signed the new legislation on March 28, 1973. It authorized the death penalty for murder, rape and other offenses, and implemented trial procedures to conform to constitutional requirements.
In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia's new death penalty for murder. In the case of Coker v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional as applied to rape.
Many people in the United States were outraged when Lieutenant William Calley was convicted in a military trial and sentenced to life for his role in the My Lai Massacre in South Vietnam. Carter instituted "American Fighting Man's Day" and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on in support of Calley. Indiana's governor asked for all state flags to be flown at half-staff for Calley, and Utah's and Mississippi's governors also disagreed with the verdict.
When Carter entered the Democratic Party presidential primaries in 1976, he was considered to have little chance against nationally better-known politicians. His name recognition was two percent. When he told his family of the decision to run for president, his mother asked, "President of what?" As the Watergate scandal of President Nixon was still fresh in the voters' minds, Carter's position as an outsider, distant from Washington, D.C., became an asset. He promoted government reorganization. Carter published Why Not the Best? in June 1976 to help introduce himself to the American public.
Carter became the front-runner early on by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He used a two-prong strategy: In the South, which most had tacitly conceded to Alabama's George Wallace, Carter ran as a moderate favorite son. When Wallace proved to be a spent force, Carter swept the region. In the North, Carter appealed largely to conservative Christian and rural voters; he had little chance of winning a majority in most states. He won several Northern states by building the largest single bloc. Carter's strategy involved reaching a region before another candidate could extend influence there. He had traveled over 50,000 miles, visited 37 states, and delivered over 200 speeches before any other candidates announced that they were in the race. Initially dismissed as a regional candidate, Carter proved to be the only Democrat with a truly national strategy, and he clinched the nomination.
Carter began the race with a sizable lead over Ford, who narrowed the gap during the campaign, but lost to Carter in a narrow defeat on November 2, 1976. Carter won the popular vote by 50.1 percent to 48.0 percent for Ford, and received 297 electoral votes to Ford's 240. Carter became the first contender from the Deep South to be elected President since the 1848 election. Carter carried fewer states than Ford - 23 states to the defeated Ford's 27 - yet Carter won with the largest percentage of the popular vote (50.1 percent) of any non-incumbent since Dwight Eisenhower.
Carter's tenure was a time of continuing inflation and recession, as well as an energy crisis. On January 7, 1980, Carter signed Law H.R. 5860 aka Public Law 96-185 known as The Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, bailing out Chrysler Corporation. He cancelled military pay raises during a time of high inflation and government deficits.
Carter attempted to calm various conflicts around the world, most visibly in the Middle East with the signing of the Camp David Accords; giving back the Panama Canal; and signing the SALT II nuclear arms reduction treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. His final year was marred by the Iran hostage crisis, which contributed to his losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.
On April 18, 1977, Carter delivered a televised speech declaring that the U.S. energy crisis during the 1970s was the moral equivalent of war. He encouraged energy conservation by all U.S. citizens and installed solar water heating panels on the White House. He wore sweaters to offset turning down the heat in the White House.
In 1977, Carter appointed Alfred E. Kahn, a professor of economics at Cornell University, to be chair of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). He was part of a push for deregulation of the industry, supported by leading economists, leading 'think tanks' in Washington, a civil society coalition advocating the reform (patterned on a coalition earlier developed for the truck-and-rail-reform efforts), the head of the regulatory agency, Senate leadership, the Carter administration, and even some in the airline industry. This coalition swiftly gained legislative results in 1978.
The Airline Deregulation Act (Pub.L. 95–504) was signed into law by President Carter on October 24, 1978. The main purpose of the act was to remove government control over fares, routes and market entry (of new airlines) from commercial aviation. The Civil Aeronautics Board's powers of regulation were to be phased out, eventually allowing market forces to determine routes and fares. The Act did not remove or diminish the FAA's regulatory powers over all aspects of airline safety.
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 effective 1920 beginning of Prohibition in the United States. This deregulation led to an increase in home brewing over the 1980s and 1990s that by the 2000s had developed into a strong craft microbrew culture in the United States, with over 2,000 breweries and brewpubs in the United States by 2012.
In response to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, which raised a bitter controversy. It was the only time since the founding of the modern Olympics in 1896 that the United States had not participated in a Summer or Winter Olympics. The Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan until 1989 (eight years after Carter left office).
Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy's ambition to replace him as president. Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election.
Carter's campaign for re-election in 1980 was one of the most difficult, and least successful, in history. He faced strong challenges from the right (Republican Ronald Reagan), the center (independent John B. Anderson), and the left (Democrat Ted Kennedy). He had to run against his own "stagflation" - ridden economy, while the hostage crisis in Iran dominated the news every week. He alienated liberal college students, who were expected to be his base, by re-instating registration for the military draft. His campaign manager and former appointments secretary, Timothy Kraft, stepped down some five weeks before the general election amid what turned out to have been an uncorroborated allegation of cocaine use. Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide, and the Senate went Republican for the first time since 1952.
The Independent writes, "Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president." While he began his term with a 66 percent approval rating, this had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving.
In the wake of Nixon's Watergate Scandal, exit polls from the 1976 Presidential election suggested that many still held Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon against him. By comparison Carter seemed a sincere, honest, and well-meaning Southerner.
His administration suffered from his inexperience in politics. Carter paid too much attention to detail. He frequently backed down from confrontation and was quick to retreat when attacked by political rivals. He appeared to be indecisive and ineffective, and did not define his priorities clearly. He seemed to be distrustful and uninterested in working with other groups, or even with Congress when controlled by his own party, as well as fellow Democratic senators which he denounced for being controlled by special interest groups. Though he made efforts to address many of these issues in 1978, the approval he won from his reforms did not last long.
In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan projected an easy self-confidence, in contrast to Carter's serious and introspective temperament. Carter's personal attention to detail, his pessimistic attitude, his seeming indecisiveness and weakness with people were accentuated in contrast to Reagan's charismatic charm and delegation of tasks to subordinates. Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Carter was the first elected president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.
In the years since then, his reputation has much improved. Carter's presidential approval rating, at 31 percent just prior to the 1980 election, was polled in early 2009 at 64 percent. His post-Presidency activities have been favorably received. Carter believes that George H. W. Bush, who actively sought him out and was far more courteous and interested in his advice than Reagan, contributed to the rise in his reputation.
In 1981, Carter returned to Georgia to his peanut farm, which he had placed into a blind trust during his presidency to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. He found that the trustees had mismanaged the trust, leaving him more than one million dollars in debt. In the years that followed, he has led an active life, establishing the Carter Center, building his presidential library, teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and writing numerous books. He has also contributed to the expansion of Habitat for Humanity, to build affordable housing. As of September 8, 2012, Carter has lived longer after leaving the White House than any other U.S. President.
Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are well known for their work as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, a Georgia-based philanthropy that helps low-income working people around the world to build and buy their own homes and access clean water.
Carter's hobbies include painting, fly-fishing, woodworking, cycling, tennis, and skiing.
Carter intends to be buried in front of his home in Plains, Georgia. Both President Carter and his wife Rosalynn were born in Plains. Carter also noted that a funeral in Washington, D.C. with visitation at the Carter Center is being planned as well. In contrast, most presidents since Herbert Hoover have chosen burial at their presidential libraries or museums. Assassinated in office, John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Lyndon B. Johnson chose to be buried at his ranch
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