Thirty-ninth U.S. president, diplomatic envoy. Born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Carter grew up in a devout Baptist family, the son of James Earl, a peanut farmer and politician, and Lillian, a nurse. A lifelong interest in world affairs, fueled by family political discussions while growing up, prompted him to pursue a career in politics. Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946, and for the next seven years he served in the U.S. Navy, becoming a lieutenant commander. After leaving the Navy, Carter returned to Plains, where he lived in a public-housing project with his new wife, Rosalynn, while taking over the family peanut business and becoming involved in community affairs.
He served as Georgia’s liberal state senator from 1962 to 1966, then governor from 1971 to 1974. He began campaigning for the U.S. presidency, and won the Democratic nomination in 1976, narrowly beating Gerald Ford in the presidential election. In contrast to recent administrations, Carter had promised an honest and progressive government that would be responsive to the public. Among the major accomplishments of his administration was the creation of the Panama Treaty and the historic Camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
Carter's achievements during his presidency were overshadowed somewhat by his perceived shortcomings in handling several major crises. On November 4, 1979, 52 Americans were seized from the U.S. Embassy in Iran by students who were angry with the Carter Administration for allowing Iran’s deposed shah into the United States for medical treatment. A devastating rescue attempt of the hostages—in which eight U.S. Marines died—and Carter’s failure to negotiate their release, as well as mounting inflation, the worst oil embargo in U.S. history, and a recessive economy contributed to the nation’s waning confidence in him. News of the hostage crisis dominated news media for the remainder of his term, and his re-election campaign suffered beyond repair. Although all 52 hostages in Iran were released 444 days later—on the day that his opponent, Ronald Reagan, was sworn into office—he lost the presidential election by one of the largest margins in U.S. history.
Returning to Plains, Carter decided to sell the family peanut business to pay its enormous debts.
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Jimmy Carter biography
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