Wednesday, March 07, 2012

10 Fun Facts About Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States


1. James Earl Carter was born in Plains, Georgia in 1924, the eldest of four children.  The hospital he was born in now bears his mother's name, and is today a mental hosptial.  Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.  An ancestor of 17th century English settlers, Carter's great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

2. Carter played basketball for his high school team, and was a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America).  June Carter Cash, wife of Johnny Cash, was a distant cousin.

3. Joining the Naval Academy in 1943, Carter served on ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific, and later served in nuclear submarines.  Following a meltdown at a reactor in Canada, Carter was part of an elite team that entered the reactor and sealed it off.  Following his father's death in 1953, Carter - now married to Rosalynn Smith - resigned his commision in the Navy and returned to take over his father's peanut farm in Georgia.  For a short period of time, the Carters lived in public housing, making Carter the only president in U.S. history to have done so.  The Carters have four children.  Carter is also the only president in U.S. history to have graduated from the Naval Academy. 

4. After successfully turning his father's farm into a thriving business, Carter entered politics in 1961 by winning a seat in Georgia's state senate.  He served two terms, but declined running for a third term in 1966, and instead contemplated a run for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Shortly into this campaign, however, he turned his sights on the Georgia gubernatorial race, and instead ran for the Democratic nomination there.  He was ultimately defeated, and therefore returned to his peanut farming business, although he continued to make public political appearances for the Democratic party. 

5. Carter ran again in the Georgia gubernatorial election of 1970, and this time he pulled out a victory over Republican opponent Hal Suit.  In his inaugural speech, he openly condemned discrimination against blacks, making him the first major office holder in the South to publically do so.

6. In 1973, while governor of Georgia, Carter filed a report with the International UFO Bureau, reporting a UFO sighting in 1969 that was also witnessed by several other people.

7. In 1976, Carter ran for the presidency, hoping to capitalize on his status as a Washington outsider in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the public's negative opinion of the Republican party.  Initially considered a longshot, he became the front-runner and eventually gained the Democratic nomination.  During this campaign, Carter was interviewed by Playboy magazine and famously admitted to being guilty of lust.  He won the election by a slim margin over incumbent Gerald Ford, with the results split largely West to East, with Ford taking virtually all of the western states, and Carter taking most of those east of the Mississippi.

8. Carter's presidency was characterized by rising energy costs, trouble in the Middle East, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, which played a significant role in Carter's re-election bid in 1980.  While Carter was able to broker peace between Israel and Egypt, the economy was largely flat during his presidency, and the public very quickly lost confidence in his leadership.  In 1980, he faced an uphill battle for re-election, having to stave off a significant run by Ted Kennedy to replace him on the Democratic ticket, before facing off against a surging Ronald Reagan in the general election.  Accused of being too moderate by the Democratic base, and too liberal by the Republicans, Carter lost in landslide, winning only 6 states, and losing by nearly 10% of the popular vote.

9.  Jimmy Carter is the only president in U.S. history to serve a full term as president, but never get to nominate a judge for the U.S. Supreme Court.  Together with his vice-president, Walter Mondale, they set the record for the longest living former presidential team in U.S. history, surpassing John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  In September of 2012, Carter will become the longest surviving ex-president in U.S. history, passing Herbert Hoover. 

10. Carter has become one of the most publically active ex-presidents in U.S. history.  In 2002, he became the only former U.S. president to earn a Nobel Peace Prize for work performed outside the office of the presidency.  He is also the only president to publish a novel.  His post-presidential career is widely viewed as far more successful than his presidential career.  In 2000, Carter and his wife surpassed John and Abigail Adams as the second longest married presidential couple in U.S. history, behind only George and Barbara Bush.  Both plan on being buried in their hometown of Plains, Georgia.           

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