Choose another Topic

Return to People Introduction

Return to Georgia Political Leaders

Carter, Jimmy

Future Georgia governor and U.S. president James Earl Carter. Jr. - better known as Jimmy Carter - was born in the Wise Sanitarium in Plains, Georgia, becoming the first U.S. president born in a hospital. He was the first child of James Earl Carter (a small-town businessman and farmer) and Lillian Gordy Carter (a registered nurse). The Carters would have three other children - Gloria (1926), Ruth (1929), and Billy (1937).

In 1928, Carter’s father bought a farm in the nearby community of Archery. It was here that Jimmy Carter grew up and learned to farm.

Jimmy Carter graduated from Plains High School and attended Georgia Southwestern College, Georgia Tech, and the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1946.

In his junior year at the Naval Academy, Carter had begun dating Rosalynn Smith of Plains. Shortly after graduation, they married on July 7, 1946.

Carter served as a naval officer on submarine duty. When his father died in 1953, Carter resigned his naval commission and returned home to Plains to take over the family peanut farm and peanut warehouse businesses.

Initially, Carter became active in local, regional, and state service organizations before successfully running for the Georgia Senate in 1962. After serving two terms as a state senator, Carter unsuccessfully ran for governor in the 1966 Democratic primary, losing to Lester Maddox. Carter learned from his loss to Maddox and ran again in 1970 - this time winning the Democratic primary and, subsequently, the general election. Carter had campaigned on a platform of reorganizing state government to reduce the number of separate agencies and make them operate more efficiently and economically. As governor, he successfully pushed through the Executive Reorganization Act of 1972.

At the time, Georgia’s state constitution prohibited a governor from serving a consecutive term, so Carter began planning for higher office. In 1975, he decided to run for the presidency, formally launching his campaign the following year. To the surprise of almost everyone but his loyal campaign supporters (popularly known as the “Peanut Brigade”), Carter won the National Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and went on to defeat Republican president Gerald Ford in the November 1976 election.

Following his inauguration, Carter faced rising inflation due to the Arab oil embargo, which caused gasoline prices at the pump to triple and quadruple in a very short time. His administration saw domestic and foreign successes, as well as failures - none as frustrating as the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran, in November 1979 and the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days. The Iran hostage crisis contributed significantly to Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in the November 1980 election.

In 1987, Congress designated Carter’s boyhood home, the Plains train depot, and the former Plains High School as the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

In the years following his presidency, Carter became internationally involved in advancing human rights around the globe as well as working on Habitat for Humanity home building projects. For this work, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. Later, The Carter Center was established at Emory University in Atlanta, from where Jimmy and Rosalynn continue their work of “resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.” (Quote from Carter Center website).