Jimmy Carter

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Jimmy Carter (1977)
Signature of Jimmy Carter

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924 in Plains , Georgia ) is an American politician of the Democratic Party . He was the 39th  President of the United States between 1977 and 1981 . From 1971 to 1975 he was the governor of Georgia.

During his tenure, he signed the Torrijos-Carter treaties for the surrender of the Panama Canal and was instrumental in the negotiations on the Camp David I Agreement . He negotiated the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China for the first time (already negotiated under his predecessor Richard Nixon ). Domestically, he was mainly involved in energy , education and environmental policycommitted, but failed to lead the US out of its economic and social crisis and was replaced by Ronald Reagan after a term in office .

Since the end of his presidency, Carter committed with his Carter Center particularly for human rights , international mediation and election observation . In 2002 the Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize for this.


Origin and family

Carter is one of four children of James Earl Carter (1894–1953) and Bessie Lillian Gordy (1898–1983). From 1942 he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1943 . In 1946, after graduating, he married Rosalynn Eleanor Smith (* 1927). At the beginning of his service with the US Navy , Carter was stationed on the USS Wyoming (BB-32) , a test ship for on-board electronics. After its decommissioning in 1947, he and his comrades were transferred to the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) . From late 1948 to 1951 he was on the submarine USS Pomfret (SS-391) . By the end of 1952, Carter held several officer positions on the USS Barracuda (SSK-1) and was then brought into the nuclear submarine fleet by Hyman Rickover . He began studying nuclear physics and engineering at Union College, New York State, and was to serve on the USS Seawolf (SSN-575) . After a partial core meltdown at the Chalk River nuclear power plant on December 12, 1952, he took part in cleanup work. After his father's death on July 22, 1953, he left the Navy to take over the family's peanut and cotton plantations and warehouses.

His deep roots in the Christian faith are formative for him . For many years he worked as a deacon in a Baptist church in the adult Sunday school and in the field service, which resulted in tens of thousands of foreign visitors annually. He officially resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2000; As a specific reason for leaving, he named their discrimination against women. Carter remained active in his local community until he published a position paper on discrimination against women in mid-2009 and completely broke away from the SBC.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn have three sons (Chip, Jeff, and Jack) and a daughter named Amy. Jack Carter (* 1947) ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Senate as a Democratic candidate in the state of Nevada in 2006 . The son of Jack and grandson of Jimmy, Jason Carter , also suggested a political career in the Democratic Party a: he was from May 2010 to January 2015 a member of the Senate of Georgia and stood as a candidate in the election on November 4, 2014 for the post of Georgia governor, but lost.

Early political career and governor of Georgia

Carter began his political career on the Plains Community School Board. He served in the Georgia Senate from January 14, 1963 to January 10, 1967 . He advocated fiscal restraint, represented moderately progressive views on the US civil rights movement and was considered liberal on social issues.

In 1966 he ran for the Primary of the Democratic Party (DP) unsuccessfully to be the top candidate in the gubernatorial election of Georgia on November 8, 1966 ; Lester Maddox was the DP's top candidate and governor in the 1967–71 legislature. In 1970 Carter ran again. In his campaign appearances, he supported the governor of Alabama , George Wallace, who was controversial because of his strong advocacy for racial segregation . Carter's campaign workers distributed thousands of photos showing his rival candidate and former governor, the liberal Carl Sanders , in friendly company with black basketball players. Carter promised to reassign a declared segregationist to the Georgia Board of Regents . He also promised to invite George Wallace to speak in Georgia as his first act. In the end, Carter was elected governor, especially white supporters of racial segregation.

After his election, however, Carter said in speeches that the era of racial segregation was over and that racial discrimination had no place in the future of the state. He was the first state-level incumbent in the southern states to make such a public statement. Carter's position has been seen across the US as a sign of changing times. Carter also made an organizational effort to desegregate and reorganized the state administration. In the following gubernatorial election he could not run again because at that time two consecutive terms as governor of Georgia were not allowed. In the early 1970s, Carter stood up for the war criminal William Laws Calley, Jr. , who was responsible for the Mỹ Lai massacre during the Vietnam War . Carter, then Governor of Georgia, introduced American Fighting Man's Day and asked Georgian drivers to drive with the lights on for a week in solidarity with Calley.

Carter (left) during one of the televised debates with President Ford on September 23, 1976

1976 presidential candidacy

In the primary elections, he prevailed as the Democratic candidate for the presidential election on November 2, 1976 . The Watergate affair was still the dominant topic of public discussion at the time and harmed the incumbent Gerald Ford , although he was not involved in it himself. Ford had pardoned his predecessor Richard Nixon ; Carter did not criticize him for this (unlike many others). Carter's outsider position and the fact that he was previously absent from national politics suddenly turned into his advantage. His campaigning and debates were generally considered to be very skillful. The central theme of his election campaign was a reorganization of the government and administrative structures at the federal level. Carter was the first candidate from the Deep South ( Deep South ) ( South Carolina , Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi , Louisiana ) since the American Civil War , who won a presidential election. He received 50.1 percent of the vote and 297 electoral votes; President Ford received 48.0% and 240 electoral votes in Electoral College .

Presidency (1977-1981)

US President Jimmy Carter and King Hussein I of Jordan in the
White House on April 25, 1977
President Carter addressing Congress, 1978
Carter on the phone in the Oval Office , November 1978
Carter during the 1980 election campaign

After the election victory over Gerald Ford , he took up his presidency on January 20, 1977 with Walter Mondale as vice-president. He began his official work with reforms of the scope of responsibility of various ministries.

In a key foreign policy address at Notre Dame University on May 22, 1977, a few months after starting his term in office, Carter outlined his ideas for a new foreign policy that should be more human rights-based. He also wanted to put US politics on a new legitimacy basis after the end of the Vietnam War . To what extent he succeeded in implementing this agenda remains (as of 2016) controversial.

Domestically, Carter was dealing with the effects of the first oil price crisis ; this had triggered high inflation and high unemployment in many industrialized countries. On August 4, 1977, the United States Department of Energy was established. Here "he had considerable difficulties and suffered his greatest defeats". He did not know the customs of the Congress from his own experience and elected numerous young aides from Georgia for his staff at the White House, who did not know them either. He had no chief of staff for two and a half years , causing "delays"; then he called McWhorter Jordan .

Foreign policy he was successful in mediating between Egypt and Israel ; the Camp David Agreement was signed in September 1978 and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in March 1979 . The conclusion of the SALT II treaty with the USSR (which, however, was never ratified) goes back to his work, as well as the transfer of control of the Panama Canal to Panama . He reduced the support of the dictator of Nicaragua , Anastasio Somoza Debayle . On January 1, 1979, the United States officially entered into diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China ; in April 1979, the US Congress approved the Taiwan Relations Act .

1979 can be seen as a turning point and the beginning of the end of Carter's political career. More decisive than his initial successes was his behavior during the events of that year that ultimately led to his defeat by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election campaign. After the reactor accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania , he was accused of showing too much consideration for the US nuclear industry when handling the official investigation report. The continued support for Indonesia despite the genocide in East Timor has also been criticized. In 1979, the crisis in Iran also peaked. After the Guadeloupe Conference , the assumption of power by Ayatollah Khomeini as part of the Islamic Revolution was tolerated by President Carter. The Carter administration secretly welcomed the destabilization and eventual overthrow of the Shah's government, as the Shah made increasing efforts in the last few years of his rule to gradually reduce the influence of the United States and Great Britain on his country. After Carter had allowed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to travel to the USA to treat his cancer, however, Tehran was taken hostage in November 1979 , when over 50 Americans out of 400 Iranian students from the group Daneshjuyane Khate Emam (“Students who belong to the lineage of the Imam follow ”) were detained in the US embassy in Tehran . After the failure of an unfortunate raid to rescue the hostages ( Operation Eagle Claw ), the president's reputation plummeted. The hostage-taking lasted 444 days and ended a few minutes after the inauguration of the newly elected President Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981. With the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the establishment of an Islamic state of God, the United States lost much power and influence in the Middle East .

The Islamic Revolution in Iran was followed by the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR , whereupon it issued the Carter Doctrine , which provided that all activities of foreign powers in the Gulf region, especially in Iran and Iraq , as an aggressive act against the interests of USA and would be punished accordingly - also militarily - ("Any attempt by a foreign power to gain control of the Persian Gulf will be viewed as an attack on the central interests of the USA and ... will be repulsed by all necessary means, including military means" ). One of Carter's key advisors at the time was Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński . To this end, he reintroduced the registration of conscripts and made sure that the USA and some other western states boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow . This attempt to show severity was largely not honored by the American population and was rather viewed as an admission of the failure of Carter's previous foreign policy.

As early as July 15, 1979, Carter gave his opinion on the supposedly pessimistic mood in the population in a national television speech, criticized the increasing materialism and consumerism of the American population and called for tough measures to solve the energy crisis. The speech, known as the “malaise speech”, which was ultimately a response to incorrect opinion polls, was initially received positively by the population and the media. According to a poll on July 16, Carter's popularity briefly rose 11 percentage points. However, perceptions soon shifted and the president was blamed for lack of confidence. When Carter fired seven members of his cabinet a few days later , this was interpreted as weak leadership and pessimism. The Democratic Party's hopes for a possible re-election of Carter sank, not least because of the publicly perceived contrast between the thoughtful Carter and his emphatically optimistic opponent Ronald Reagan .

Many of his compatriots, especially the comrades-in-arms of his Republican challenger Ronald Reagan, accused him during the presidential election campaign in 1980 of alienating himself from the people and of having lost faith in the USA. Carter suffered a heavy defeat by Reagan in the November 4, 1980 election: he received 41 percent of the vote and Reagan 50.7 percent. In Electoral College , Reagan had 489 electors and Carter only 49. In addition to Washington, DC , Carter and Mondale only received a majority in Georgia , Hawaii , Minnesota , Maryland , Rhode Island and West Virginia , while Reagan and his running mate George HW Bush received a majority in all other states received a majority of the vote. Reagan replaced Carter on January 20, 1981 in the presidency.

Since the end of World War II, Carter was the only US president under whose administration the US was not involved in an open military conflict .

International mediator and Nobel Peace Prize

Jimmy Carter in 2007

After his election defeat, Carter was involved in numerous activities aimed at promoting human rights , democracy, and charity. While his presidency is generally regarded as largely unsuccessful, in the following decades he has earned a great international reputation through intensive humanitarian engagement.

Among other things, he founded the Carter Center for Human Rights and has since been active, mostly as a private individual, as a mediator in various conflicts. He was also active as an election observer , particularly in Latin American and African countries, and actively campaigned for health care there. He and his wife Rosalynn Carter also work together for Habitat for Humanity . In Africa (Togo, Ghana and other countries), the activities of Carter have pushed the guinea worm , a worm disease that can lead to severe infectiousness and which is often fatal if left untreated, so far that it is now estimated that around 4 million people have were cured of this disease through Carter's dedication. Among other things, he campaigned massively and successfully to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry even produced the necessary drugs that did not promise a sufficient profit margin. Since Carter's engagement began in 1986, the number of cases reported annually has fallen from over 2 million to a few hundred in 2012.

He hit the headlines again in 1994 through intermediary services in Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina . He later became the first former US president to visit Cuba since 1959 . In May 2002 he even met with Fidel Castro . Carter was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote peace and upholding human rights . He was the third US President after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to receive this award. In contrast to these, this was not awarded to him during his term of office, but only later for his work after his presidency.

Carter in the
Johnson Presidential Library in February 2011

In 2004 Carter criticized George W. Bush and Tony Blair , who started the Third Gulf War against Iraq based on “lies and misinterpretations” and thus “sacrificed” “American” and “Western values”.

In December 2006 a fierce controversy broke out in the USA, mainly in the media, about Carter's latest book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid , in which he blames Israel for the unresolved Palestine conflict. While denouncing Israel's actions as inhuman and contrary to international law, he accuses his own country of uncritical partisanship for Israel's interests.

In August 2010, on a private trip to North Korea (as a spokesman for the American government emphasized) in conversation with the deputy ruler Kim Yŏng-nam, he obtained the release of the American Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who had been sentenced to eight years of forced labor for illegal entry .

Jimmy Carter was a member of The Elders until 2016 .

On September 7, 2012, Jimmy Carter overtook Herbert Hoover as US President, who had lived the longest after his term in office. Since the death of George HW Bush in November 2018 he has been the oldest living former US president and since March 22, 2019 the president of the old age.

On August 12, 2015, Jimmy Carter announced that liver surgery had revealed that he was suffering from advanced, metastatic cancer. At the beginning of December 2015, the former president announced that his cancer treatment had been successfully completed and that he was on the mend.


  • Why Not the Best? (1975 and 1996); German: give the best. The man from Georgia about himself (Kassel and Wuppertal 1976)
  • A Government as Good as Its People (1977 and 1996)
  • Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President (1982 and 1995)
  • Negotiation: The Alternative to Hostility (1984)
  • The Blood of Abraham (1985 and 1993)
  • Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (1987 and 1995), with Rosalynn Carter
  • An Outdoor Journal (1988 and 1994)
  • Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age (1992)
  • Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation (1993 and 1995)
  • Always a Reckoning (1995), collection of poems illustrated by his granddaughter; German-English edition: Given the void . Weidle Verlag, Bonn 2005, ISBN 978-3-931135-87-4 .
  • The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer (1995), children's book illustrated by his daughter
  • 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 (2003), a historical novel ; German: The rebels . Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-16220-8 .
  • Our Endangered Values ​​America's Moral Crisis (July 2006)
  • Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (November 2006)
  • Faith: A Journey For All (March 2018) ISBN 1-501-18441-5 , 192 pp.


Carter with a model of the submarine named after him (1998)



  • Julian E. Zelizer: Jimmy Carter: The American Presidents Series: The 39th President, 1977-1981 . 2010
  • John Dumbrell: The Carter Presidency . 1993
  • Erwin C. Hargrove: Jimmy Carter as President . 1988
  • Charles O. Jones: The Trusteeship Presidency . 1988
  • Herbert A. Rosenbaum, Alexander Ugrinsky (Eds.): The Presidency and Domestic Policies of Jimmy Carter . 1994
  • Herbert A. Rosenbaum, Alexander Ugrinsky (Eds.): Jimmy Carter: Foreign Policy and Post-Presidential Years . 1994
  • Gebhard Schweigler: Jimmy Carter (1977–1981): The outsider as president. In: Christof Mauch (ed.): The American Presidents: 44 historical portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama. 6th, continued and updated edition. Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 , pp. 387-394.

See also

Web links

Commons : Jimmy Carter  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: Jimmy Carter  - sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/three-president-carter/
  2. whoswho.de: Jimmy Carter
  3. mbcplains.com: Maranatha Baptist Church ( Memento from January 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  4. CNN.com - Jimmy Carter breaks lifelong ties to Southern Baptists - October 20, 2000 ( Memento of December 22, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Jimmy Carter severs ties with Southern Baptist church women, protesting treatment of. In: blogher.com. July 17, 2009, archived from the original on July 20, 2009 ; accessed on October 12, 2019 (English).
  6. David Frum : How We Got Here: The 1970s . Basic Books, New York, New York 2000, ISBN 0-465-04195-7 , pp. 84-85.
  7. Philipp Gassert: Jimmy Carter's speech on US foreign policy. In: Sources on the history of human rights. Working Group Human Rights in the 20th Century, August 2016, accessed on January 11, 2017 .
  8. ^ W. Michael Blumenthal: Around the world in eighty years. My life. Propylaeen, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-549-07374-2 , pp. 357 .
  9. Blumenthal, here p. 356
  10. Blumenthal, here p. 359
  11. Blumenthal, here p. 360
  12. Barbara Friehs: The American Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama. Marix, Wiesbaden 2014, p. 233 (e-book edition).
  13. ^ Arnd Krüger : The Unfinished Symphony. A History of the Olympic Games from Coubertin to Samaranch. In: James Riordan , Arnd Krüger (Ed.): The International Politics of Sport in the 20th Century. Routledge, London 1999, pp. 3-27.
  14. Days of Malaise. Ohio University, October 14, 2009. ( Memento of the original from November 14, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ohio.edu
  15. Andie Collier: What is Carter right? In: Politico , July 15, 2009 (English).
  16. Information from tagesschau.de ( Memento from August 28, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  17. Home. In: theelders.org. March 3, 2015, accessed November 5, 2018 .
  18. Jimmy Carter :: theElders.org. Archived from the original on October 5, 2007 ; Retrieved March 3, 2015 .
  19. ^ Jimmy Carter just became the oldest living former president ever. On CNN , March 22, 2019
  20. ^ "Jimmy Carter Says He Has Cancer," New York Times, Aug. 12, 2015.
  21. Jimmy Carter announces he is cancer-free , CNN, December 7, 2015 (English)
  22. ^ Member History: Jimmy Carter. American Philosophical Society, accessed May 31, 2018 (English, with short biography).
  23. ^ Official homepage of the Baptist World Federation ( Memento of April 28, 2008 in the Internet Archive ); Accessed October 29, 2009.
  24. ^ List of previous recipients. (PDF; 43 kB) United Nations Human Rights, April 2, 2008, accessed on December 29, 2008 (English).
  25. ^ President Jimmy Carter: 2007 Recipient of The Ridenhour Courage Prize. Ridenhour.org, 2007, archived from the original on March 4, 2012 ; accessed on February 27, 2012 (English).
  26. ^ New Fish Species Discovered: Roosevelt, Carter, Clinton, Gore and Obama . Sci-news.com, November 19, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2013.