Jimmy Carter

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Portrait, James Earl Carter, Jr.James Earl Carter, Jr. 39th President of the United States (January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981) Nickname: “Jimmy” Born: October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia

Father: James Earl Carter Mother: Lillian Gordy Carter Married: Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter (1928- ), on July 7, 1946 Children: John William “Jack” Carter (1947- ); James Earl “Chip” Carter III (1950- ); Donnel Jeffrey “Jeff” Carter (1952- ); Amy Lynn Carter (1967- ) Religion: Baptist Education: Attended Georgia Southwestern State University (1942); Attended Georgia Institute of Technology (1943); Graduated from U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. (1946) Occupation: Farmer, public official Political Party: Democrat Other Government Positions:

  • Georgia State Senator, 1963-66
  • Governor of Georgia, 1971-75

Presidential Salary: $200,000/year + $50,000 expense account James Earl Carter, Jr, better known as Jimmy Carter became the president of the United States at a troublesome time for the country. The long drawn out Vietnam War, tiny U.S. flag President Nixon’s resignation and his pardon by tiny U.S. flag Ford had done much damage to public trust in the executive office. At the same time, the country was also in the throes of an economic crisis coupled with an energy crisis caused by the oil embargo imposed by OPEC in 1973.  During his presidential campaign Carter emphasized honesty, presenting himself as the Washington outsider that he was, with a track record in Georgia’s state government as a governor who championed desegregation and the reorganization of wasteful and/or complex government agencies. While this worked to his advantage during the campaign trail, in office his outsider status and independent manner of functioning caused him much trouble in his dealings with Congress. The executive and the legislature were often in disagreement, and Carter was thus unable to deliver on several promises he had made prior to his election.  In spite of frequent disagreements, important legislations were passed aimed at addressing the energy crisis and in the field of environmental policy, such as the establishment of Superfund. In fact oil prices had climbed down steadily over the years, only to shoot up when the Iran hostage crisis began. In foreign policy, Carter declared human rights to be the focus of his administration. Aid to countries with dictatorial governments, such as Nicaragua, Chile and Uganda was cut. Full diplomatic relations with China were established, and treaties were signed that ended US control of the Panama Canal.  US relations with the Soviet Union see-sawed during Carter’s tenure. It was criticized for its human rights record, but with the beginning of arms control talks, it was toned down. SALT II was signed, but never ratified by the US Senate as Carter pulled it from consideration following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan The latter of Carter’s presidency was dominated on domestic and foreign stages by the Iran hostage crisis, and the US’s seeming inability to deal with it effectively.  On the other hand, Carter has been often hailed as the best ex-president due to the extensive work he and his wife have invested in humanitarian causes inside and outside the US.

Presidential Election Results:
YearPopular VotesElectoral Votes
1976James E. Carter, Jr.40,827,394297
tiny U.S. flag Gerald R. Ford39,145,977240
tiny U.S. flag Ronald Reagan1
1980tiny U.S. flag Ronald Reagan43,267,489489
James E. Carter, Jr.34,964,58349
John B. Anderson5,588,014

Vice President: Walter F. Mondale (1977-81) [Was the Democratic candidate in the 1984 presidential elections, losing to incumbent tiny U.S. flag Ronald Reagan. His running mate, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro was the first ever female vice-presidential nominee in the US.] Cabinet:

Secretary of State
Cyrus R. Vance (1977-80)
Edmund S. Muskie (1980-81)
Secretary of the Treasury
W. Michael Blumenthal (1977-79)
G. William Miller (1979-81)
Secretary of Defense
Harold Brown (1977-81)
Attorney General
Griffin B. Bell (1977-79)
Benjamin R. Civiletti (1979-81)
Secretary of the Interior
Cecil D. Andrus (1977-81)
Secretary of Agriculture
Robert S. Bergland (1977-81)
Secretary of Commerce
Juanita M. Kreps (1977-79) [The first woman and the first economist to hold this position]
Philip Klutznick (1979-81)
Secretary of Labor
F. Ray Marshall (1977-81)
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (1977-79)
Patricia R. Harris (1979-80)
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Patricia R. Harris (1980-81) [The department was renamed during her tenure.]
Secretary of Education
Shirley Hufstedler (1980-81) [The first US Secretary of Education]
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Patricia R. Harris (1977-79) [The first female African-American member of the US cabinet]
Moon Landrieu (1979-81)
Secretary of Transportation
Brock Adams (1977-79)
Neil E. Goldschmidt (1979-81)
Secretary of Energy
James R. Schlesinger (1977-79)  [The first US Secretary of Energy]
Charles W. Duncan, Jr. (1979-81)

Notable Events:

  • 1977
  • 1978
    •  The Camp David Accords are signed, the first significant peace deal in the Middle East crisis.
    • The US grants China full diplomatic status.
  • 1979
  • 1980
    • The Carter Doctrine is introduced during the State of the Union address.
    • President Carter announces that the economy is in recession.
    • The Moscow Summer Olympics are boycotted by the US to protest the invasion of Afghanistan.
    • ‘Operation Eagle Claw’, an attempt to rescue the Tehran embassy hostages, fails.
  • 1981

Internet Biographies:

Jimmy Carter — from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
Jimmy Carter — from American Presidents: Life Portraits — C-SPAN
Biographical information, trivia, key events, video, and other reference materials. Website created to accompany C-SPAN’s 20th Anniversary Television Series, American Presidents: Life Portraits.
Jimmy Carter — from U.S. Presidents
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.
Jimmy Carter — from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
A brief overview of Carter’s life, including publications and family history.
Jimmy Carter — from Character Above All
From a PBS broadcast of the same name, this essay excerpt by Hendrik Hertzberg discusses some of the issues and events that molded Carter.
James Earl Carter — from From Revolution to Reconstruction
An brief examination of the Carter presidency’s highlights and lowlights.

Historical Documents:

Inaugural Address (1977)
Framework of Peace in the Middle East (1978)
Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty Between Egypt and Israel (1978)

Media Resources:

From his 1979 State of the Union address: “Will our children (in the 21st century) enjoy a better quality of life?” (0:57)
MP3 (455K)
From the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University.
Audio & Video
The American Presidency Project’s Presidential Audio/Video Archive for Jimmy Carter site

Other Internet Resources:

Carter Center
A public policy institute founded by Carter in 1982. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, interviews, speeches, and opinions by Mr. and Mrs. Carter, as well as news, programs, and tour information are available.
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
Tourist information on the Carter residence, boyhood home, high school and visitor center in Plains, Georgia.

Points of Interest:

  • Jimmy Carter was the president in 1977 when the Trans-Alaska pipeline was completed and began operations. This came at a time when America was experiencing an oil and energy crisis resulting from the OPEC oil embargo of the early 1970’s.
  • In 1979, 32 solar panels were installed at the White House. This was one of the initiatives taken by President Carter to persuade Americans to turn towards renewable sources of energy. The panels were taken down by the next administration. 
  • In 1982, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter established the Carter Center with the aim of advancing human rights and alleviating human suffering. 
  • In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel 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”. He is the third US president to receive this honor.


  • What are the Camp David Accords?

The Camp David Accords were a set of agreements signed between Egypt and Israel by their heads of state, Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin respectively. Signed on 17th September, 1978, the agreements were the first between Israel and an Arab country. They brought an end to hostilities between the countries since the creation of Israel in 1947, and returned to Egypt the Sinai peninsula which had been occupied by the former during the 1967 Six Day War.  The accords are named after Camp David in Maryland, where they were signed, following months of negotiations brokered by President Jimmy Carter.

  • How did Jimmy Carter handle the energy crisis in the late 1970’s?

To tackle the energy crisis that had plagued the country since 1973, Jimmy Carter prioritized the reduction of American dependence on foreign oil. The Department of Energy was created the year he took office. The National Energy and the Energy Security Acts were passed which attempted to reduce the US’s dependence on oil, and shift the focus to and incentivize the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar power. Carter also pushed for the deregulation of domestic oil prices even as he called for energy conservation to get a handle on the crisis and to address growing environmental concerns.

  • What was the Iran hostage crisis?

The Iran hostage crisis began on 4th November, 1979 when the US embassy in Iran was stormed and those inside were held hostage by a group of Iranian student revolutionaries. The situation lasted for 444 days, and is often cited as one of the reasons for Carter’s poor performance in the 1981 presidential elections. Several diplomatic attempts and one disastrous military one to rescue the hostages did not work.  Iran had recently undergone a regime change when the government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the country’s installed dictatorial leader since 1941, was overthrown by revolutionaries under the direction of the radical cleric Ayatollah Khomieni. The Shah fled to Egypt. While the Carter administration did not intervene in Iran on the Shah’s behalf, in October 1979 he was allowed into the US on humanitarian grounds for medical treatment. This angered the revolutionaries in Iran, triggering the hostage crisis.  The hostages were finally released on the day of  tiny U.S. flag Reagan’s inauguration.

  • What did Jimmy Carter do after his presidency?

While his presidency itself is often numbered among the worst, Jimmy Carter is widely hailed as an excellent ex-president. Soon after leaving office, he founded the Carter Center with his wife Rosalyn, and the two have been very active in several humanitarian projects such as Habitat for Humanity.  Carter has remained active in foreign affairs as well, observing and reporting on elections in countries where the process is fraught with fraudulent practices. He has also served in the position of unofficial envoy, mediating disputes between the US and other countries such as North Korea and Libya, and has advised succeeding US presidents on tensions in the Middle East. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work towards peaceful reconciliations in international disputes.

Related Resources:

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