Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.), 1924–, 39th President of the United States (1977–81), b. Plains, Ga, grad. Annapolis, 1946.

Carter served in the navy, where he worked with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in developing the nuclear submarine program. Resigning his commission (1953) after his father's death, he ran his family's peanut farm, which he built into a prosperous business. In 1962 he was elected as a Democrat to the first of two terms in the Georgia Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1966, then succeeded in 1970, replacing Lester Maddox. As governor, Carter proclaimed that the time had come to end racial discrimination and formed alliances with such civil-rights leaders as Andrew Young.

Although little known outside Georgia, Carter announced that he would run for president at the end of his gubernatorial term, and through sustained and diligent campaigning won the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. With Minnesota Senator Walter F. Mondale as his running mate, Carter defeated incumbent President Gerald R. Ford. But Carter never established good relations with Congress and, with Republican successes in the 1978 midterm elections, his difficulties increased.

In foreign policy, Carter had some initial success. He secured congressional ratification—by a single vote after extended and rancorous debate—of his two Panama Canal treaties (1977), establishing a timetable for passing control of the canal to Panama. Then, in 1979, at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, Carter personally persuaded Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel to sign the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state (see Camp David accords).

Although he and Leonid Brezhnev signed the Salt II treaty (see disarmament, nuclear), it had uncertain chances for Senate ratification, and Carter shelved the treaty in Jan., 1980, as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see Afghanistan War). When the USSR refused to withdraw, Carter also initiated a trade embargo and a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games. In the last year of his administration, Carter's foreign policy was overshadowed by the Iran hostage crisis, in which Iranian students invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 55 hostages. When attempts to negotiate their release failed, Carter authorized a military rescue mission in Apr., 1980, that failed ignominiously.

Domestically, Carter had difficulties controlling inflation, which rose in each year of his administration—in part because of oil price increases after the Iranian revolution. The Federal Reserve Board's drastic remedies for curtailing inflation led to interest rates of more than 20% by 1980. Inflation and the unresolved hostage crisis put Carter in a weak position as the 1980 presidential election campaign began. He won the Democratic nomination only after a bitter challenge from Sen. Edward Kennedy. In the general election he was decisively defeated by Ronald Reagan.

Since leaving office, Carter has been active in international human-rights efforts, often as an impartial observer of first-time free elections. He has served as an international mediator in North Korea, Haiti, Bosnia, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and has worked to focus world attention on epidemics in Africa. He made a highly publicized trip to Cuba in May, 2002, becoming the most prominent American to visit the nation since Castro came to power. The Carter Center in Atlanta, founded in 1986, became an important arena for the discussion of international affairs. Carter also has been deeply involved with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps working-class people in North America and abroad build and finance new homes. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to advance peace, democracy, human rights, and economic and social development.

Jimmy Carter married Rosalynn Smith in 1946; they have four children. During his term of office Carter published Why Not the Best? (1975) and A Government as Good as Its People (1977). After it, he wrote more than a dozen works of poetry and nonfiction, including The Blood of Abraham (1985); Everything to Gain (1987, written with his wife); Turning Point (1992); The Hornet's Nest (2003), a novel set in the South during the Revolutionary War; and Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006), which some critics accused of one-sided, anti-Israeli views.

See his memoirs, Keeping Faith (1982) and An Hour before Daylight (2001) and his White House Diary (2010); biography by J. E. Zelizer (2010); J. Wooten, Dasher: The Roots and the Rising of Jimmy Carter (1978); E. C. Hargrove, Jimmy Carter as President (1988); P. G. Bourne, Jimmy Carter (1997); D. Brinkley, The Unfinished Presidency (1998); B. Glad, An Outsider in the White House (2009); E. S. Godbold, Jr., Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter: The Georgia Years, 1924–1974 (2010); J. B. Flippen, Jimmy Carter, the Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Prophet from Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy
Frye Gaillard.
University of Georgia Press, 2007
The Presidency and Domestic Policies of Jimmy Carter
Herbert D. Rosenbaum; Alexej Ugrinsky.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: The Georgia Years, 1924-1974
E. Stanly Godbold Jr.
Oxford University Press, 2010
The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order
Richard C. Thornton.
Paragon House, 1991
Jimmy Carter as Peacemaker: A Post-Presidential Biography
Rod Troester.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
Jimmy Carter: Foreign Policy and Post-Presidential Years
Herbert D. Rosenbaum; Alexej Ugrinsky.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Economic Policy in the Carter Administration
Anthony S. Campagna.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Presidential Power and Management Techniques: The Carter and Reagan Administrations in Historical Perspective
James G. Benze Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Prelude to the Presidency: The Political Character and Legislative Leadership Style of Governor Jimmy Carter
Gary M. Fink.
Greenwood Press, 1980
The Great Debates: Carter vs. Ford, 1976
Sidney Kraus.
Indiana University Press, 1979
The Carter Implosion: Jimmy Carter and the Amateur Style of Diplomacy
Donald S. Spencer.
Praeger Publishers, 1988
Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations
Jean A. Garrison.
Texas A&M University, 1999
A Time for Reckoning: Jimmy Carter and the Cult of Kinfolk
Brinkley, Douglas.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Jimmy Carter-Nobel Lecture: Nobel Lecture, Oslo, December 10, 2002
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International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Vol. 19, No. 1, Annual 2003
Comparing Presidential Behavior: Carter, Reagan, and the Macho Presidential Style
John Orman.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Jimmy Carter's Economy: Policy in An Age of Limits
W. Carl Biven.
University of North Carolina Press, 2002
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