Jimmy Carter

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Carter, Jimmy

(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. RickoverRickover, Hyman George,
1900–1986, American admiral, b. Russia. In World War II he served as head of the electrical section of the navy's Bureau of Ships. After the war he was assigned (1946) to the atomic submarine project at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
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 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 MaddoxMaddox, Lester G.
(Lester Garfield Maddox, Sr), 1915–2003, U.S. public official, governor of Georgia (1967–71), b. Atlanta. He achieved national notoriety in 1964 when he drove African Americans from his restaurant in defiance of federal civil-rights legislation and
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. As governor (1971–75), Carter proclaimed that the time had come to end racial discrimination and formed alliances with such civil-rights leaders as Andrew YoungYoung, Andrew Jackson, Jr.,
1932–, African-American leader, clergyman, and public official, b. New Orleans. He was a leading civil-rights activist in the 1960s and, as a Democrat from Georgia, served (1973–77) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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. This focus on social justice, informed in part by his religious beliefs, remained a significant part of his subsequent political and postpolitical career.

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. MondaleMondale, Walter Frederick
(Fritz Mondale), 1928–, Vice President of the United States (1977–81), b. Ceylon, Minn., LL.B., Univ. of Minn., 1956. A liberal Democrat, he was active in the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and served as state attorney general (1960–64).
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 as his running mate, Carter defeated incumbent President Gerald R. FordFord, Gerald Rudolph,
1913–2006, 38th president of the United States (1974–77), b. Omaha, Nebr. He was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but his parents were divorced when he was two, and when his mother remarried he assumed the name of his stepfather.
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. Carter substantially increased the responsibilities of the vice president during his administration, helping to establish modern vice presidency, which historically had been an often marginal office. 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-SadatSadat, Anwar al-
, 1918–81, Egyptian political leader and president (1970–81). He entered (1936) Abbasia Military Academy, where he became friendly with Gamal Abdal Nasser and other fellow cadets committed to Egyptian nationalism.
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 of Egypt and Menachem BeginBegin, Menachem
, 1913–92, Zionist leader and Israeli prime minister (1977–83), b. Russia. He became (1938) leader of a Zionist youth movement in Poland, where he also earned a law degree.
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 of Israel to sign the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state (see Camp David accordsCamp David accords,
popular name for the peace treaty forged in 1978 between Israel and Egypt at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. The official agreement was signed on Mar. 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C.
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Although he and Leonid BrezhnevBrezhnev, Leonid Ilyich
, 1906–82, Soviet leader. He joined (1931) the Communist party and rose steadily in its hierarchy. In 1952 he became a secretary of the party's central committee.
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 signed the Salt II treaty (see disarmament, nucleardisarmament, nuclear,
the reduction and limitation of the various nuclear weapons in the military forces of the world's nations. The atomic bombs dropped (1945) on Japan by the United States in World War II demonstrated the overwhelming destructive potential of nuclear weapons
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), 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 WarAfghanistan War,
1978–92, conflict between anti-Communist Muslim Afghan guerrillas (mujahidin) and Afghan government and Soviet forces. The conflict had its origins in the 1978 coup that overthrew Afghan president Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, who had come to power by ousting
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). 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 crisisIran hostage crisis,
in U.S. history, events following the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran by Iranian students on Nov. 4, 1979. The overthrow of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi of Iran by an Islamic revolutionary government earlier in the year had led to a steady
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, 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, undertaken under the leadership of Paul VolckerVolcker, Paul Adolph,
1927–2019, American economist, government official, and banker, b. Cape May, N.J. After working as an under secretary in the Treasury Department (1969–74) and as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank (1975–79), he was appointed
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, who was appointed by Carter, led to interest rates of more than 20% by 1980. During Carter's tenure the cabinet departments of Education and Energy were established, and a general policy of government deregulation in energy and interstate transportation was pursued. 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 KennedyKennedy, Ted
(Edward Moore Kennedy), 1932–2009, U.S. senator from Massachusetts (1962–2009), b. Boston, Mass., youngest son of Joseph P. Kennedy and the last survivor of brothers Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.
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. In the general election he was decisively defeated by Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
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Since leaving office, Carter has been active in international human-rights efforts, often as an 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, focusing special attention on eradicating guinea worm disease and river blindness. 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 25 works of poetry and nonfiction, including The Blood of Abraham (1985); Everything to Gain (1987, written with his wife Rosalynn); Turning Point (1992); The Hornet's Nest (2003), a novel set in the South during the Revolutionary War; Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006), which some criticized as one-sided and anti-Israeli; and A Call to Action (2014), a plea for women's rights.


See his memoirs, Keeping Faith (1982) and An Hour before Daylight (2001), and his White House Diary (2010); biographies by J. E. Zelizer (2010), R. Ballmer (2014), and J. Alter (2020); 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Carter, Jimmy


(James Earl Carter). Born Oct. 1, 1924, in Plains, Ga. American state figure.

The son of a farmer, Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 and served in the US Navy. After his discharge in 1953 he took over his family’s farm. He was elected to the Georgia state senate in 1962. Carter served as governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. In 1976 he was nominated as the candidate of the Democratic Party for the office of president of the United States. He defeated the Republican Party’s candidate, G. Ford, in the election of November 1976 and took office in January 1977.

In foreign policy the Carter administration directed its efforts at maintaining and strengthening the position of the USA and emphasized relations with the Western European allies and Japan. Supporting in principle the continuation of the policy of detente, Carter increasingly sought to secure exclusive advantages for the USA in its relations with the USSR to the detriment of the agreed-upon principles of sovereignty, equality, mutual benefit, and noninterference in the internal affairs of the other side. Early in 1980, Carter announced a decision to postpone indefinitely the ratification of the second Soviet-American Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT-II), signed in 1979. Other steps were also taken to increase international tension and to curtail economic, scientific, technological, and cultural exchanges between the USA and the USSR. The “human rights” campaign launched by Carter was in effect a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. A policy of increased US military presence in various areas of the world was pursued, and all-around assistance to Afghani counterrevolutionaries was rendered. The unpopularity of Carter’s policy resulted in his failure in the 1980 presidential election.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Carter, (James Earl) Jimmy

(1924–  ) thirty-ninth U.S. president; born in Plains, Ga. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (1946) and served in the navy until 1953; part of that time he worked under Admiral Hyman Rickover on the naval nuclear reactor project. Carter left the navy to take over the family's peanut business, which he built up. He served two terms as a Democrat in the Georgia legislature (1963–67). After serving as a liberal governor of Georgia (1970–74), he began campaigning for the presidency and won the Democratic nomination of 1976, narrowly beating Gerald Ford in the election. In contrast to recent administrations, he had promised an open and progressive government responsive to the public; despite a Democratic Congress, however, his presidency was notable more for good intentions than achievements. He did effect the Panama Treaty and the historic Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt (1979), but his initial popularity waned during 1979–80 as a result of mounting economic difficulties and the seizure of U.S. hostages in Iran. He lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. Back in private life he was active in national and international social concerns, taking a hands-on approach to everything from building homes for poor Americans to mediating between hostile parties (as in Haiti).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.