10 Things to Know About Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was the 39th president of the United States, serving from 1977 to 1981. Here are 10 key and interesting facts about him and his time as president.

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Son of a Farmer and a Peace Corps Volunteer

President Jimmy Carter speaking at Merced College

Diana Walker / Contributor / Getty Images

James Earl Carter was born on October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia to James Carter, Sr. and Lillian Gordy Carter. His father was a farmer and a local public official. His mother volunteered for the Peace Corps. Jimmy grew up working in the fields. He finished public high school and then attended the Georgia Institute of Technology before being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943. 

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Married Sister's Best Friend

Carter married Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on July 7, 1946, soon after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. She was the best friend of Carter's sister Ruth. 

Together, the Carters had four children: John William, James Earl III, Donnel Jeffrey, and Amy Lynn. Amy lived in the White House from age nine until thirteen.

As First Lady, Rosalynn was one of her husband's closest advisers, sitting in on many cabinet meetings. She has spent her life devoted to helping people around the world. 

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Served in the Navy

Carter served in the navy from 1946 to 1953. He served on a number of submarines, serving on the first nuclear sub as an engineering officer. 

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Became a Successful Peanut Farmer

When Carter died, he resigned from the navy to take over the family peanut farming business. He was able to expand the business, making him and his family very wealthy. 

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Became the Governor of Georgia in 1971

Carter served as a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967.  he then won the governorship of Georgia in 1971. His efforts helped to restructure Georgia's bureaucracy.

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Won Against President Ford in a Very Close Election

In 1974, Jimmy Carter declared his candidacy for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. He was unknown by the public but that outsider status helped him in the long run. He ran on the idea that Washington needed a leader they could trust after Watergate and Vietnam. By the time the presidential campaign began he led in the polls by thirty points. He ran against President Gerald Ford and won in a very close vote with Carter winning 50 percent of the popular vote and 297 out of 538 electoral votes.

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Created the Department of Energy

Energy policy was very important to Carter. However, his progressive energy plans were severely curtailed in Congress. The most important task he accomplished was creating the Department of Energy with James Schlesinger as its first secretary.

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident that occurred in March 1979, allowed for key legislation changing regulations, planning, and operations at nuclear power plants.

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Arranged the Camp David Accords

When Carter became President, Egypt and Israel had been at war for some time. In 1978, President Carter invited Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David. This led to the Camp David Accords and a formal peace treaty in 1979. With the accords, a united Arab front no longer existed against Israel. 

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President During the Iran Hostage Crisis

On November 4, 1979, sixty Americans were taken hostage when the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, was overrun. The Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran, demanded the return of the Reza Shah to stand trial in exchange for the hostages. When America did not comply, fifty-two of the hostages were held for more than a year. 

Carter attempted to rescue the hostages in 1980. However, this attempt failed when helicopters malfunctioned. Eventually, economic sanctions placed upon Iran took their toll. The Ayatollah Khomeini agreed to release the hostages in exchange for the unfreezing of Iranian assets in the United States. However, Carter was unable to take credit for the release as they were held until Reagan was officially inaugurated as president. Carter failed to win reelection partially due to the hostage crisis. 

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Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002

Carter retired to Plains, Georgia. Since then, Carter has been a diplomatic and humanitarian leader. He and his wife are heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity. In addition, he has involved in both official and personal diplomatic endeavors. In 1994, he helped create an agreement with North Korea to stabilize the region. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “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.”

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Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Jimmy Carter." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-jimmy-carter-104752. Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). 10 Things to Know About Jimmy Carter. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-jimmy-carter-104752 Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Jimmy Carter." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-jimmy-carter-104752 (accessed June 3, 2023).