Jimmy Carter

Nuclear Engineer and Former

President of the United States (1977-1981)




Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.), 39th president of the United States, was born Oct. 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Ga., and grew up in the nearby community of Archery. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a farmer and businessman; his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, a registered nurse. Carter served in the Navy for 10 years as an engineer working with nuclear-powered submarines.

He was educated in the Plains public schools, attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program, he was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf.

On July 7, 1946, he married Rosalynn Smith of Plains. When his father died in 1953, he resigned his naval commission and returned with his family to Georgia. He took over the Carter farms, and he and Rosalynn operated Carter's Warehouse, a general-purpose seed and farm supply company in Plains. He quickly became a leader of the community, serving on county boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library. In 1962 he won election to the Georgia Senate. He lost his first gubernatorial campaign in 1966, but won the next election, becoming Georgia's 76th governor on Jan. 12, 1971. He was the Democratic National Committee campaign chairman for the 1974 congressional and gubernatorial elections.

President Jimmy Carter

On Dec. 12, 1974, he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. He won his party's nomination on the first ballot at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and was elected president on Nov. 2, 1976.

Jimmy Carter served as president from Jan. 20, 1977, to Jan. 20, 1981. Significant foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world. On the domestic side, the administration's achievements included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; and major environmental protection legislation, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Books & Accomplishments - See, Books

Mr. Carter is the author of 23 books, many of which are now in revised editions: "Why Not the Best?" 1975, 1996; "A Government as Good as Its People," 1977, 1996; "Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President," 1982, 1995; "Negotiation: The Alternative to Hostility," 1984, 2003; "The Blood of Abraham," 1985, 1993, 2007; "Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life," written with Rosalynn Carter, 1987, 1995; "An Outdoor Journal," 1988, 1994; "Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age," 1992; "Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation," 1993, 1995; "Always a Reckoning," 1995; "The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer," illustrated by Amy Carter, 1995; "Living Faith," 1996; "Sources of Strength: Meditations on Scripture for a Living Faith," 1997; "The Virtues of Aging," 1998; "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood," 2001; "Christmas in Plains: Memories," 2001; "The Nobel Peace Prize Lecture," 2002; "The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War," 2003; "Sharing Good Times," 2004;  "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, 2005;  "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," 2006;  "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope," and, "A Remarkable Mother," 2008.

The Carter Center

In 1982, he became University Distinguished Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and founded The Carter Center. Actively guided by President Carter, the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center addresses national and international issues of public policy. Carter Center fellows, associates, and staff join with President Carter in efforts to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease and other afflictions. Through the Global 2000 programs, the Center advances health and agriculture in the developing world. It has spearheaded the international effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease, which will be the second disease in history to be eliminated.

President Carter and The Carter Center have engaged in conflict mediation in Ethiopia and Eritrea (1989), North Korea (1994), Liberia (1994), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1994), Sudan (1995), the Great Lakes region of Africa (1995-96), Sudan and Uganda (1999),  Venezuela (2002-2003), Nepal (2004-2008), and Ecuador and Colombia (2008). Under his leadership, The Carter Center has sent 70 election-monitoring missions to the Americas, Africa, and Asia. These include Panama (1989), Nicaragua (1990), Guyana (1992), China (1997), Nigeria (1998), Indonesia (1999), East Timor (1999), Mexico (2000), Guatemala (2003), Venezuela (2004), Ethiopia (2005), Liberia (2005), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2006), and Nepal (2008).

The permanent facilities of The Carter Presidential Center were dedicated in October 1986, and include the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, administered by the National Archives. Also open to visitors is the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, administered by the National Park Service.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter volunteer one week a year for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the United States and in other countries renovate and build homes for themselves. He also teaches Sunday school and is a deacon in the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains. For recreation, he enjoys fly-fishing, woodworking, cycling, tennis, and skiing. The Carters have three sons, one daughter, eight grandsons, three granddaughters, and one great-grandson.

On Dec. 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter "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."


Parents: James Earl Carter, born 1894, Arlington, Ga.; died 1953. Lillian Gordy Carter, born 1898, Richland, Ga.; died 1983. They married Sept. 26, 1923.

Brother and Sisters: Ruth Carter Stapleton (Mrs. Robert T.), died 1983. Gloria Carter Spann (Mrs. Walter G.), died 1990. William Alton (Billy) Carter III, died 1988.

Wife: Rosalynn Smith Carter, born Aug. 18, 1927, Plains, Ga.

Children and Grandchildren: John William (Jack) Carter, born July 3, 1947, Portsmouth, Va. He is married to Elizabeth Sawyer of Cleveland, Miss. Their children are: Jason James Carter, born Aug. 7, 1975, Sarah Rosemary Carter, born Dec. 19, 1978, John Michael Chuldenko, born Mar. 21, 1975, and Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko, born Mar. 22, 1978.

James Earl (Chip) Carter III, born April 12, 1950, Honolulu, Hawaii. He is married to Becky Payne of Parkersburg, W.V. Their children are: James Earl Carter IV, born Feb. 25, 1977, Margaret Alicia Carter, born Sept. 23, 1987, and Casey Payne Gallagher, born May 7, 1986.

Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff) Carter, born Aug. 18, 1952, New London, Conn. He is married to Annette Jene Davis of Arlington, Ga. Their children are: Joshua Jeffrey Carter, born May 8, 1984, Jeremy Davis Carter, born June 25, 1987, and James Carlton Carter, born April 24, 1991.

Amy Lynn Carter, born Oct. 19, 1967, Americus, Ga. Her son, Hugo James Wentzel, was born July 29, 1999.

Revised 07/16/2008 by Steven H. Hochman