Jimmy Carter is known as being the do-gooder president; a label that worked against him during his presidency but which, of late has gained him respect and popularity.
Decades on, Carter still continues his great work – including living in an affordable home and shopping at the dollar store.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Now, Carter comes from humble beginnings.
Born on October 1, 1924, his family was by no means wealthy.
Born in the small town of Plains, Georgia to Lillian and Earl Carter, he was their oldest child.
When he was only 4-years-old his father bought a 350-acre farm in the nearby village of Archery – the family lived here without electricity or running water.
But Carter had big ambitions.
Carter excelled in school, was a big reader and, despite his humble beginnings, his teachers and peers alike could see he was destined for great things.
In 1943, aged only fifteen, he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
In 1946, he married Rosalyn Smith.
On getting hitched, the newlyweds decided to move to Norfolk, Virginia.
For the next six years, Carter’s job in the navy took the pair to various places. They lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, California, and New York.
The couple also had their 3 children; Jack, Chip, and Jeff.
Following the death of his father, Earl, Carter left the Navy to return home and take over the family farm – but making a profit on the farm was no easy feat and after a year, he and his young family found themselves living in public housing.
It was during these years back in Plains that Carter realized his passion for improving the welfare of his community so, between the years 1954-1962, he took an active interest in joining local boards.
But he refused to join the White Citizens Council.
A life-long supporter of civil rights, Carter refused to be a part of the racist white movements that engulfed his hometown in the South. Growing up working in the fields, he recalled:
“We were the only white family. I was completely absorbed in black culture. Black women took care of me. All of my playmates and friends were African Americans.”
In 1962 Carter was then elected to the Georgia State Senate.
Carter served out 2 terms in the senate between 1962 and 1966.
He then tried for Governor of Georgia but lost out to arch-segregationist Lester Maddox.
But after 4 years, Carter was back and more popular than ever.
In 1971, he once again tried for the governor of Georgia position and this time he was successful.
It was after this that things began to change very quickly for him…
In 1974, he announced his candidacy for president.
By now his popularity had grown so big that thousands of people traveled to Plains in an attempt to meet him.
The U.S. was ready for a president for the people.
In a famous speech, as part of his presidential campaign, Carter said:
“We’ve seen walls built around Washington, and we feel like we can’t quite get through to guarantee the people of this country a government that’s sensitive to our needs, that we can understand and control, that’s competent, well-managed, efficient, economical, purposeful, and also a government of which we can be proud.”
Ford had only taken the seat of president after Nixon had been forced to resign over the watergate scandal.
The fact that during his presidency, Ford granted a presidential pardon to Nixon caused controversy. In contrast to Ford, Carter seemed like an honest choice who wouldn’t be a party to underhand tactics.
Although typically the role of the president went to a candidate of a certain class, Carter’s humble beginnings actually worked in his favor.
After Nixon people wanted to change things up.
Carter was innaugrinated as 39th President of the United States on January 20th, 1977.
Primarily improving the U.S’s relations with countries all over the world, improving education for children in the U.S. and attempting to bring in a national health service.
The Carter family suffered intrusions from the press, however.
The decision to send his youngest daughter, Amy to the historic African American public elementary, Thaddeus Stevens School, caused an utter media circus.
Carter was dedicated to improving internal and international relations.
During his presidency, Carter created an ambitious foreign policy and strived to improve race relations within the country.
At his inauguration, he said:
“The time for racial discrimination is over. No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice.”
After an unsuccessful rescue attempt in 1980, public opinion of Carter diminished. Despite losing out to Ronald Reagan in the next election, Carter put all his efforts in securing the release of the prisoners.
On his last day of presidency, they were released and, without a thought, he and his wife went straight to Germany to greet the prisoners.
Even after his presidency, the Carters continued to dedicate their time to politics.
In 1982, the couple opened The Carter Center in Atlanta.
The center aims are to “wager peace, fight disease and build hope,” for people all over the world. Quoted on their website, Carter wrote:
“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes — and we must.”
Carter then received the Nobel peace prize in 2002.
In acknowledgement of his tireless efforts to promote and expand human rights.
Carter continues to dedicate his life since his presidency in travelling the world to help those in need and to negotiate for the human rights of those who are not being heard.
Carter has also written a whopping thirty books.
Not only has he published political memoirs but he has also written rapidly about on-going American and global affairs.
Aside from politics, he also writes poetry and books considering ideas around religion and faith.
He and Rosalynn have now been married for over seventy years.
The pair have always maintained a close bond and shared the same passions. Jimmy always considered marrying Rosalynn as the key to his successes.
Ever since they left the White House, they have lived in the same $167,000 home Jimmy built himself in 1961 in rural Georgia.
The couple live frugally and choose to shop at Dollar General and fly commercially. They also use paper plates.
When asked about their lifestyle choices, Jimmy explained:
“It just never had been my ambition to be rich, but rather to make the world a better place.”
Even well into their nineties, they continue to serve others and help in as many projects as they can.