James Earl Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He previously was the 76th Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975, after two terms in the Georgia State Senate from 1963 to 1967. Carter has remained active in public life during his post-presidency, and in 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.
Raised in a wealthy family of peanut farmers in the southern town of Plains in Georgia, Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and joined the United States Navy, where he served on submarines. After the death of his father in 1953, Carter left his Naval career and returned home in Georgia to take on the reins of his family’s peanut-growing business. Despite his father’s wealth, Carter inherited comparatively little due to his father’s forgiveness of debts and the division of wealth amongst his younger siblings. Nevertheless, his ambitions to expand and grow the Carters’ peanut business was successfully fulfilled. During this period, Carter was fueled by the political climate of racial segregation and the growing civil rights movement. He became a motivated activist within the Democratic Party. From 1963 to 1967, Carter served in the Georgian senate, and in 1970, he was elected as Governor of Georgia, defeating former Governor Carl Sanders in the Democratic primary on an anti-segregationist platform advocating affirmative action for ethnic minorities. Carter remained in his position as Governor until 1975. Despite being little-known outside of Georgia at the start of the campaign, Carter won the 1976 Democratic presidential nominationand entered the presidential race as the dark horse candidate. In the presidential election, Carter defeated incumbent RepublicanPresident Gerald Ford in a close election.
On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all evaders of the Vietnam War drafts. During Carter’s term as president, two new cabinet-level departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were established. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and the return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama. On the economic front he confronted persistent stagflation, a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth. The end of his presidential tenure was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In response to the invasion, Carter escalated the Cold Warby ending détente, imposing a grain embargo against the Soviets, enunciating the Carter doctrine, and leading an international boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In 1980, Carter faced a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy, but Carter won re-nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Carter lost the general election in an electoral landslide to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. Polls of historians and political scientists usually rank Carter as a below-average president.
In 2012, Carter surpassed Herbert Hoover as the longest-retired president in U.S. history. He is also the first president to mark the 40th anniversary of his inauguration. He set up the Carter Center in 1982 as his base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. In addition, Carter is considered a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project and has written several books about various topics. In reference to current political views, he has criticized some of Israel’s actions and policies in regards to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has advocated for a two-state solution. He has vigorously opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC to strike down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions, saying that the U.S. is “no longer a functioning democracy” and now has a system of “unlimited political bribery.”