1977-1981DemocratOctober 1, 1924, in Plains, GeorgiaCarter and his wife Rosalyn live in Plains, Georgia.
Vice PresidentFirst LadyPrevious OccupationsStates in Union
Walter F. MondaleRosalynn Smith Carter (Wife)Farmer, Navy Officer, Public Official, Professor50


Carter’s parents were James Earl and Lillian Gordy Carter. Carter married Rosalynn Smith in 1946. They had four children: John William, James Earl III, Jeffrey, and Amy Lynn.


Carter was elected to the presidency without having had any previous federal government political experience. In the aftermath of Watergate, many people looking for dramatic change appreciated his outsider status and attitude. As president he was committed to maintaining his independence from party leaders, but his distance sometimes proved detrimental in dealing with Congress. Nevertheless, Carter attempted to control the energy crisis by creating the Department of Energy and a national energy policy. He appealed directly to the public regarding the need to reduce consumption on an individual level. Carter also strengthened environmental protection laws, expanded the national park system to protect 103 million acres of Alaskan wilderness, and signed legislation to ensure the financial solvency of Social Security.

Many believe Carter’s most significant achievement to be the Camp David Accords of 1978. Over a period of 13 days Carter mediated discussions between Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David. These personal talks resulted in a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that ended the state of war that had existed since 1948.

In other ways, Carter was considered ineffective. The economy continued to deteriorate during his administration, with inflation rates hitting 10% and interest rates climbing to 18%. But it was the ongoing hostage crisis that labeled Carter as weak. On November 4, 1979, militant Iranians seized 66 Americans as hostages at the American embassy in Tehran to protest U.S. policy. Carter’s diplomatic and military efforts to free the hostages failed, and they were not released until his last day in office.

Carter subsequently lost his bid for reelection to the Republican Ronald Reagan. Carter returned to his family’s peanut business and also established the Carter Center, from which he has actively worked for international peace and human rights.


As an 8th grade student, Carter made a list of good mental habits in his scrapbook: “If you think in the right way you will develop: (1) the habit of accomplishing what you attempt, (2) the habit of expecting to like other people, (3) the habit of deciding quickly what you’d like to do and doing it, (4) the habit of sticking to it, (5) the habit of welcoming cheerfully all wholesome ideas and experiences, (6) a person who wants to build good mental habits should avoid the idle daydream; should give up worry and anger; hatred and envy; should neither fear nor be ashamed of anything that is honest and purposeful.”

In his Inaugural Address, Carter asserted, “Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right. The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be even stronger than before.” (January 20, 1977)

Carter advocated a change in foreign policy to reflect human rights during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame: “I want to speak to you today about the strands that connect our actions overseas with our essential character as a nation. I believe we can have a foreign policy that is democratic, that is based on fundamental values, and that uses power and influence, which we have, for humane purposes . . . I have a quiet confidence in our own political system. Because we know that democracy works, we can reject the arguments of those rulers who deny human rights to their people. We are confident that democracy’s example will be compelling, and so we seek to bring that example closer to those from whom in the past few years we have been separated and who are not yet convinced about the advantages of our kind of life. We are confident that the democratic methods are the most effective, and so we are not tempted to employ improper tactics here at home or abroad. We are confident of our own strength, so we can seek substantial mutual reductions in the nuclear arms race. And we are confident of the good sense of American people, and so we let them share in the process of making foreign policy decisions. We can thus speak with the voices of 215 million, and not just of an isolated handful. (May 22, 1977)

At This Time

1977: Carter pardons Vietnam War draft evaders • Congress passes the Emergency Natural Gas Act, authorizing the president to deregulate natural gas prices due to a shortage in supply • Carter signs the bill and announces plans to present an energy program to Congress • In April Carter addresses the nation to outline his energy program and urges the public to consider the “difficult effort” required to conserve energy and thereby reduce oil consumption to be so necessary that it is the “moral equivalent of war” • Carter speaks at Notre Dame University, presenting a new direction in foreign policy that emphasizes fundamental human rights • In July the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meets with Carter in Washington • In December Carter meets with Polish First Secretary Gierek in Warsaw • Carter visits the Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, in Tehran, calling Iran “an island of stability” in the Middle East • The boxing drama Rocky wins the Academy Award for best picture • The films Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever both premiere • The U.S. space shuttle Enterprise makes its first manned flight • The U.S. population reaches 216 million • 1978: Carter travels to India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and Belgium • Carter invokes the Taft-Hartley Act to end a strike by coal miners • Carter warns of the Soviet threat in a foreign policy address at Wake Forest University • In September Carter hosts Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David • Congress passes a revised energy bill proposed by Carter • Congress also passes the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill • In December the Carter administration grants full diplomatic status to the People’s Republic of China • The first “test-tube baby” (first human baby conceived outside a woman’s body) is born in England • The world’s population is about 4.4 billion. • 1979: Carter announces his “phase two” energy plan that calls for conservation and phasing out price controls on oil • Carter approves development of the MX missile • Carter signs the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) with the U.S.S.R • The U.S. Senate never ratifies the controversial treaty, although both nations voluntarily comply with its terms • In September a Washington Post poll gives Carter the lowest approval rating of any president in three decades • Carter signs a bill establishing the Department of Education and appoints Shirley Hufstedler as its secretary • Iranian students take 66 Americans hostage at the American embassy in Tehran November 4 • William Styron publishes the novel Sophie’s Choice • A nuclear disaster is barely prevented at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania • 1980: Due to the invasion of Afghanistan, Carter asks the Senate to table its consideration of SALT II • He also places an embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union and suggests the possibility of boycotting the Summer Olympics in Moscow • Carter announces the “Carter Doctrine” in his State of the Union address, asserting that threats to the Persian Gulf region will be viewed as “an assault of the vital interests of the United States” • In March Carter announces his anti-inflation program, which includes a proposal for a balanced budget for fiscal year 1981 • Carter announces that the economy is in recession, with the inflation rates hitting 10% and interest rates climbing to 18% • The U.S. Olympic Committee votes to boycott the Moscow summer Olympics, supporting Carter in protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan • On April 25 Carter announces the failure of “Desert One,” the mission to rescue the Iranian-held hostages • Carter signs Presidential Directive 59 advocating a strategy for fighting a “limited” nuclear war • The Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish-language poet who resides in the U.S. • Over one million people visit the Picasso retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York • The World Health Organization formally announces the world-wide eradication of smallpox

Did You Know?

Carter is widely recognized as one of the most active and effective former presidents. After his presidency ended, he returned to his home state of Georgia and founded the Carter Center as a non-governmental organization committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering. Over the years Carter has traveled around the world to mediate conflicts and monitor elections. He also worked side by side with former President Ford to prepare a report on domestic problems, which they presented to President Bush in 1989. In 2002 Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

Learn More

  • CarterCenter.org
    Information about the peace, health, and human rights programs supported by The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • MillerCenter.org/president/carter
    Biographical information, essays, and access to Carter’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Field Trips for Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
Atlanta, Georgia

The Jimmy Carter Library is a research facility and museum. Also on the grounds is the Carter Center, a non-governmental organization founded to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
Plains, Georgia

Featured prominently in this collection of sites are the highlights of Plains, Georgia, where President Carter grew up—Plains High School, the Carter Boyhood Home, Plains Train Depot (the site of Carter’s campaign headquarters), and the current Carter residence, which is not open to the public.

[Back to Presidential Fact Files]