James Earl Carter, Jr. (1924- )

Figure 1.-- .

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, championed human rights throughout the world. President Carter aspired to make Government "competent and compassionate," responsive to the American people and their expectations. His a chievements were notable, but in an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing tensions, his administration failed to meet these high expectations. He was preceived by many contempraries as an inefectual president absorbed with minutia and lost overwealimingly to Ronald Regan in the 1980 election. He is generally considered to have overseen a failed presidency. Some historiand believe that President Carter was a more effective president than preceived at the time and point to the Camp David accords and the Panama Canal Treaty as importat complishments as well as progress on programd promoting social justice. Even critics for a while conceded that he probably has been the most successful former president working on a wide range of programs both domestically and internationally. He has, howevered, published some deeply flawed books with historical inaccuracies as well as assessments which attempt to paint his activities in a favorable light, ignoring some major failings. He seems to essentially be coming to the view that the use of orce is wroing and ignoring issues of right and wrong, a seeminhly strange position for apresident who made such an issue of his Christianity.


President Carter's mother was perhaps the most remarable woman of all the presidential mothers. She was a life-long Dodger fan and threw out the first ball at a World Series game in 1977. This would be remarable enough in itself, there were not many Dodger fans in Georgia. The reason for her support is particularly surprising, at least for a Georgia girl. The Dodgers were the first major League baseball club to hire a black player--Jackie Robinson. She had the chance to see his first game in 1947. Her father had an unsual, for the timeand place, sympathy for Black Americans and this was transmitted to Lilian at an early age. As a nurse she cared for the black population in Plains, Georgia, sometimes paying for the treatment. She would entertain Black lady friends in her parlor--virtually unheard of for a White womna at the time. There must have been family discussions over this. But Lilian was one in a long-line of strong women who raised future presidents. Her husband, however, would refuse to come into the house when she was doing this. The tolerant attitude toward Blacks was transferred to her children. Jimmy Carter as govenor and president aggressivlly pushed civil rights programs and both apponted and hired minorities and women in large numbers. His mother as an older woman worked as a nurse with the Peace Corps volunteer in India. It is said that when she told her sons she expected them to forbid it. When they told her it was a great idea, she had no choice but to persue it. Carter's father Earl was a farmer. He owned 4,000 acres whicgh he operated with 200 Black tennant farmers. He also operated a small store in nearby Plains. From his father Jimmy got his budsiness sence.


The Carters had four children. There were three sons John William (Jack), James Earl III (Chip), Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff), and a daughter, Amy Lynn.


Carter, who has rarely used his full name--James Earl Carter, Jr.--was born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Peanut farming, talk of politics, and devotion to the Baptist faith were mainstays of his upbringing. Most of young Jimmy's friends were Black. This was not unsusual in the South, especially in rural areas. If there were not a lot of White friends nearby, boys in the South would commonly play with Blacks. This was less common in thre cities as there were more likely to be White playmates close at hand. The toleration began to changhe when boys became a littl older. After about age 10, boys were incouraged to play with White friends only. With Jimmy because of hos mother's tolerant racial attitudes, this did not occur. While the Carter's had land, they were by no means rich. In the days before rural electrification (a New Deal program), there was no electricity or running water in the home. Jimmy and his brother pumped water from an outdoor well and chopped wood. There were all kind of farm chores like feeding the chickens and slopping the hogs. The boys lived a kiknd ot Tom Sawyer existence with plenty of open space for adventures. A great favorite was fishingb for catfish and eels. Jimmy seems to have been popular as a boy. He was small for his age, but personanle. Their father was strict, but not overly so for the times. Jimmy remembers being spanked six times--once when he stole a penny from the Church collection plate. His fatherv gave him and acre to care for at age 8. When he was 9, Jimmy invested his savings in five bales of cotton at the worst point of the Depression. He managed to sell them 4 years later at 3 times the price. He invested the proceeds in five shacks which he rented to Black tennants.

Childhood Clothing

I have little information on how Jimmy and his brothers weree dressed as boys. I understand that the wore overalls and went barefoot a lot.


Jimmy was an excellent student. He was also purposeful, even when young. He even in the 8th grade thought out eight rules for good mental habits. Upon graduation in 1946 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Carter married Rosalynn Smith.

Military Service

After 7 years' service as a naval officer, Carter returned to Plains.

Political Career

Carter entered state politics in 1962. He was elected Governor of Georgia 8 years later. Among the new young southern governors, he attracted attention by emphasizing ecology, efficiency in government, and the removal of racial barriers.

1976 Presidential Campaign

Governor Carter announced his candidacy for President in December 1974 and began a 2-year campaign that gradually gained momentum. At the Democratic Convention, he was nominated on the first ballot. He chose Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. Carter campaigned hard against President Gerald R. Ford, debating with him three times. Carter won by 297 electoral votes to 241 for Ford.


President Carter had some important achievements, notably the Camp David accords and the Panama Canal Treaty. His presidency was overshadowed, however, by his ineffectiveness in dealing with the Iranian Mullas and the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan. And domestic failures and inability to deal with high indflation and interest rates.

Domestic issues

President Carter worked hard to combat the continuing economic woes of inflation and unemployment. By the end of his administration, he could claim an increase of nearly 8 million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, measured in percentage of the gross national product. Unfortunately, inflation and interest rates were at near record highs, and the Administration's efforts to reduce them caused a short recession. Carter could point to a number of achievements in domestic affairs. He dealt with the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production. He prompted Government efficiency through civil service reform and proceeded with deregulation of the trucking and airline industries. He sought to improve the environment. His expansion of the national park system included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. To increase human and social services, he created the Department of Education, bolstered the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women, blacks, and Hispanics to Government jobs.

Foreign affairs

President Carter in foreign affairs persued a uniely personal style. His championing of human rights was coldly received by the Soviet Union and some other nations. In the Middle East, through the Camp David agreement of 1978, he helped bring amity between Egypt and Israel. He succeeded in obtaining ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. Building upon the work of predecessors, he established full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and completed negotiation of the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty with the Soviet Union. There were serious setbacks, however. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused the suspension of plans for ratification of the SALT II pact. The seizure as hostages of the U. S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran's holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home, contributed to Carter's defeat in 1980. Even then, he continued the difficult negotiations over the hostages. Iran finally released the 52 Americans the same day Carter left office. There was no appreciation by the Carter Administration for the developin danger of Islamic fundamentalism. Here Carter was not alone as subsequent administrations also failed to appreciate the danger.

1980 Presidential Campaign

After the Presidency

After leaving the White House, the Carters returned to Georgia, where in 1982 he founded the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta to promote peace and human rights worldwide. The Center has initiated projects in more than 65 countries to resolve conflicts, prevent human rights abuses, build democracy, improve health, and revitalize urban areas. Even critics for a while conceded that his efforts to mediate internatinal conflicts, monitor foreign elections, deliver needed medicines to impoverished countries, building homes for the poor, and other activities have helped to make him one of the most successful former presidents. He has, howevered, published some deeply flawed books with historical inaccuracies as well as assessments which attempt to paint his activities in a unrealistically favorable light--ignoring major failings. He seems to essentially be coming to the view that the use of force is in itself morally wrong and ignoring issues of right and wrong, and the use of force by groups he sympathizes. This seems a strange position for apresident who made such an issue of his Christianity. His book on the Isreali-Palestinian conflict catigates Israel, but ignores the terrorist activities of Hamas. [Carter, Palestine] Historians have found many historical inacuarcies and omissions in the book. Carter compares Israel, a liberal democracy in which Palestinians can vote and hold public office and have won important court rulings to ravist South Africa in which blacks could not vote, hold public office or have any real recourse to the courts. Nor does he mention how Palestians Muslims have steadily drive Christian Arabs from Betheham and other areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Historical mistakes and ommissions are bad enough, but almost all in Carter' book serve to support Plestinian claims and arguments. As an rare admirer of the President fir his support of human rights, I expected much more from him. His book suggests a lack of intelectual honesty rather than an inadequate grasp of the historical arguments. President Carter has avoided venues which would have asked hard questions. A subsequent book seems to have been written primarily to burnish is record and appears to be largely a self-serving exercise. He describes his efforts to achieve a Balkan ceasefire (1994). He sharply criticises the Clinton Administration for the collapse of the truce. [Carter, Beyond.] No where doe he assign responsibility to Slobodan Milosevic or accept responsibility for failing to appreciate the evil inherrent in the man. President Carter and Rosalynn, Rosalynn, still reside in Plains.

Rosalynn Carter (1927- )

Rosalunn Smith and Jimmy Carter were chilhood friends. They both grew up in Plains, Georgia. "She's the girl I want to marry," Jimmy Carter told his mother after their first date. Rosalynn was born in Plains (1927). She was the oldest of four brothers and sisters. Their parents were Allethea Murray Smith and Wilburn Edgar Smith. Plins was a typical small Georgia town in set in agricultural areas. Both family and church were important. Her father passed away when Rosalynn was only 13 years old. Her mother had to start a dressmaking business to support the family. Rosalynn helped with the sewing as well as the housekeeping. She was a good student. She completed high school and enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus. She first dated Jimmy after her Freshman year (1945). Jimmy at the time was home from the Naval Accademy. They were strick with each other and married the next year (1946).

The young couple went to Norfolk, Virginia, Ensign Carter's first duty station after graduation. The Navy kept them on the move. Their sons were born in different places: John William in Virginia, James Earl III in Hawaii, and Donnel Jeffrey in Connecticut. The Carters' only daughter, Amy Lynn, was born in Georgia in 1967.

When his father died in 1953, Jimmy left the service, and the Carters returned to Plains to run the family business. Managing the accounts of the peanut, fertilizer, and seed enterprise, Rosalynn soon found herself working full-time.

Jimmy entered politics in 1962, winning a seat in the Georgia Senate. Rosalynn, an important member of his campaign team, helped develop support for her husband's successful bid for the governorship of Georgia in 1970. During his Presidential campaigns, Rosalynn traveled independently throughout the United States. Her belief in her husband's ability to lead the nation was communicated in a quiet, friendly manner that made her an effective campaigner.

A skillful speaker and a hardworking First Lady, Mrs. Carter managed routine duties and special projects in her office in the East Wing. She attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, frequently represented the Chief Executive at ceremonial occasions, and served as the President's personal emissary to Latin American countries.

As First Lady, she focused national attention on the performing arts. She invited to the White House leading classical artists from around the world, as well as traditional American artists. She also took a strong interest in programs to aid mental health, the community, and the elderly. From 1977 to 1978, she served as the Honorary Chairperson of the President's Commission on Mental Health.

After returning home, Mrs. Carter wrote her autobiography, First Lady From Plains, published in 1984. She is currently vice chair of The Carter Center in Atlanta, founded in 1982 to promote peace and human rights worldwide. At the Center, she leads a program to diminish stigma against mental illness and to promote greater access to mental health care. She also is a partner with the ex-president in projects to resolve conflict, promote human rights, improve global health, and build democracy in some 65 countries.


The Carter's last child, Amy, was a cute little girl wearing large glasses during the White House years. Thus there is no information about boys' clothes. A grand child, James Earl Carter IV, was born about a month after the Carter's moved into the White House. Jimmy as he was called spent a great deal of time at the White House.

John William (1947- )

John was known as Jack. He studied nuclear physics at Georgia Tech and then studied law at the University of Geiotfia. He practiced law and then worked for the Chicago Board of Trade. He now lived in Bermuda where he works as an investment attorney. He married Juliet Langford had two children Jason James and Sarah Rosemary. Jason was a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa. Jack has since remairred to Elizabeth Brasfield.

James Earl III (1950- )

James was known as Chip. He managed the family peanut business. He also worked with the Democratic National Committee and cofounded a corporate consulting firm. He worked as presidentof Friendship Force a cultural excjange program. He married Caron Griffin and they have a son, James Earl Carter IV. He hhad a daughter with his second ife, Ginger Hidges. His third wife is Becky Payne.

Donnell Jeffrey (1952- )

Donnell was know as Jeff. Jeff studied at George Washington Unibersity and earned a degree in geography with honors. He cofounded a computer mapping company. He married Annette Jene Davis and they have three children: Joshua Jeffery, Jeremy Davis, and James Carlton.

Amy (1967- )

Amy arrived several years after the other Carter children. As a child in the White House during the Carter presuidency, she attracted more attention than the oklder Carter children. She was a cute little girl wearing large glasses. She walked beside her dad in the Innagural Parade. She became a political activist when she went away to college. She was arrested for protesting Apartheid in front of the South African Embassy. She also protested CIA rece\ruitment on college campusses. She earned a master degree in fine arts and art history at Tulane. Her father has used her colorful pastel paintings to illustrate some of his books. She married James Gregory Wentzel in 1996 who designsebsites. They have a son, Hugo James (1999- ).


Carter, Jimmy. Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope (Simon & chuster, 2007), 272p.

Carter, Jimmy. Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.

Wead, Doug. All the President's Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families (Atria: New York, 2003), 456p.


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Created: May 11, 2002
Last changed: 9:35 AM 11/12/2007