James Earl Carter, Jr. was born in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby community of Archery. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a farmer and businessman; his mother, Lillian Gordy, a registered nurse.
He was educated in the Plains public schools, attended Georgia South-Western College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946.
He later did graduate work in nuclear physics at Union College.
During his naval career, he served with both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rose to the rank of lieutenant (senior grade), working under Admiral Hyman Rickover in the development of the nuclear submarine program.
On 7 July 1946, he married Rosalynn Smith. When his father died in 1953, he resigned his commission, and they returned to Plains.
He worked his own farm and continued a small business of his father’s, selling fertiliser and farm supplies, while Rosalynn kept the books. Carter’s Warehouse grew into a profitable general-purpose seed and farm supply operation.
Soon after his return to Plains, he became involved in the affairs of the community. He was chairman of the county school board and the first president of the Georgia Planning Association. In 1962 he was elected to the Georgia Senate.
He lost his first gubernatorial campaign in 1966, but ran again in the next election and won, becoming Georgia’s 76th governor on 12 January 1971. In 1973 he became the Democratic National Committee campaign chairman for the 1974 congressional elections.
On 12 December 1974, he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. From the start, Carter was perceived as being a rather different kind of politician; as different in philosophy as in personal style.
Carter’s goal was to give the country “a Government as good and as competent and as compassionate as are the American people.”
He gave a new pride to his region and went far to heal ancient wounds. He was the typical outsider, and it was a political axiom, at that time, which he destroyed: that outsiders, particularly those from the South, went nowhere nationally.
He won his party’s nomination on the first ballot at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and was elected president on 2 November 1976.
Jimmy Carter served as president from 20 January 1977 to 20 January 1981.
Noteworthy foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world.
On the domestic side, the administration’s achievements included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; and major environmental protection legislation, including the Alaska Lands Act.
President Carter published his autobiography, Why Not the Best? in 1975. Since his presidency, he has published eight books.
The failure of a US military operation to free hostages held in the US embassy in Iran in 1980 severely dented Carter’s image at home. Meanwhile, he applied economic sanctions against the Soviet Union in response to the USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and called for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Both Miss Lillian, Carter’s mother, and Billy, his down-home younger brother, became national celebrities thanks to their outspoken ways. Jimmy himself proved almost too outspoken, nearly capsizing his campaign by admitting to Playboy that he had “committed adultery in my heart many times”, and he generally exuded warmth and sincerity that contrasted strongly with Gerald Ford‘s almost Frankensteinian stiffness.
Of course, Ford’s inability to stem the rising inflation and unemployment rates was certainly a decisive factor in the election, but when Carter pledged “I will never lie to you”, many Americans took him at his word.
Rising inflation and high unemployment added to Carter’s unpopularity, and he failed to win re-election in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan.
In 1982, he became University Distinguished Professor at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and, in partnership with the university, founded The Carter Centre.
Actively guided by President Carter, the Centre addresses national and international issues of public policy.
Carter Centre fellows and associates join with President Carter in efforts to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease and other afflictions.
Through the Global 2000 program, President Carter advanced health and agriculture in the developing world. The Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation awards a prize for outstanding contributions to the advancement of human rights. In 1991, President Carter launched The Atlanta Project, a community-wide effort to attack the social problems associated with poverty.
The permanent facilities of The Carter Centre were dedicated in October 1986, and include the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, which is open to visitors. Also open to visitors is the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, which is located in Plains. It was established in 1987 and is administered by the National Park Service.
President Carter has served on the board of directors and is a regular volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organisation that helps build homes for the needy in the United States and in other countries. He also teaches Sunday school and is a deacon in the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains.
Jimmy Carter has been by far the most active ex-president in recent American history, supervising elections in many fledgeling democracies, and helping to defuse international crises in North Korea and Haiti.
In 2002, former President Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. With Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he is the third American president to have been so honoured.
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.”