James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., the 39th President of the United States, was born in Plains, Georgia, October 1, 1924. Carter was a gifted student from an early age, and by the time he attended high school was also a star in basketball and football. Carter attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946.
Carter did post-graduate study in nuclear physics and reactor technology at Union College before serving on submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. He was selected by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover for the U.S. Navy’s fledgling nuclear submarine program, where he became a qualified command officer.
Carter’s political aspirations led him to the Georgia State Senate, the state’s governorship and, ultimately, the U.S. presidency.
As President, his major accomplishments included the consolidation of numerous governmental agencies into a new Department of Energy. He enacted strong environmental legislation; deregulated major transportation, finance, communications and oil industries; bolstered the Social Security system; and appointed record numbers of women and minorities to significant government and judicial posts.
In foreign affairs, Carter’s accomplishments included the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the creation of full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and negotiation of the SALT II Treaty.
In addition, he championed human rights throughout the world and made human rights the center of his administration’s foreign policy.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter boycotted the Moscow Olympics and began to rebuild American military power, but in domestic affairs was unable to reduce soaring interest and inflation rates or to lower unemployment. He feuded with the Democratic leaders who controlled Congress and was unable to reform the tax system or to implement a national health plan.
In 1979 Iran captured 66 American hostages, and Carter tried for 444 days without success to win their release. They were freed in January of 1981 following the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, who defeated Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
After 1980, Carter assumed the role of an elder statesman and international mediator, using his prestige as a former president to further many causes. He founded The Carter Center as a forum for issues related to democracy and human rights. He has also traveled extensively to monitor elections, conduct peace negotiations and establish relief efforts.
In 2002, Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for his “efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” Carter continues his decades-long active involvement with Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for the needy.