Former President Jimmy Carter has been in the news this week when he was released from the hospital to go on hospice at home. This thirty-ninth President of the United States is remarkable for many reasons, but most of all, we at Whole Champion, celebrate him for being a supporter of civil rights and for the decades he worked to “find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development,” as the Nobel Committee said when they awarded Carter the Nobel Prize in 2002.
17 Fascinating Facts about Jimmy Carter’s Life and Legacy
- Jimmy Carter was the first elected U.S. President to be born in a hospital.
- The schools he attended in Georgia as a child were segregated by race but his parents encouraged him to have both Black and white friends, and his mother, a nurse treated Black patients, which wasn’t common at the time.
- Carter went to the Naval Academy and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class, and he became a nuclear submarine engineer.
- But he gave up his military career when his father suddenly died in 1953. Carter returned to the family peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, to run it and to save the family business.
- In Plains, a White Citizens Council was formed to fight against the civil rights movement. Carter was the only white man in his hometown who wouldn’t join, despite people boycotting his farm.
- Upset by his state’s racial discrimination, Carter decided to run for Georgia Senate and he won. During his time as a senator, Carter helped end laws that kept Black people from voting.
- In 1970, Carter was elected governor of Georgia and said he declared that “the time of racial discrimination was over.” To that end, he increased the number of Black staff members in Georgia’s government to 25 percent and hung portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the state capitol building.
- Carter published a book called Why Not The Best? to introduce himself to voters (since he wasn’t known much outside of Georgia) when he announced his plan to run for President in the 1976 election.
- Being an outsider made his Presidency difficult. He took office when the economy was terrible and inflation was high.
- He thought American citizens used too much energy and that the U.S. was dependent on too much foreign oil. To combat this, he created the Department of Energy and gave them the mandate to research wind and solar power.
- He even added 32 solar panels to the White House (but these were removed after he left office until President Barack Obama reinstalled them). Jimmy Carter said, “a generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”
- He supported human rights all over the world, even boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because it invaded Afghanistan.
- Since Jimmy Carter left office in 1981, he has written more than twenty books.
- He founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, through which he has negotiated peace agreements between nations, created fair elections in a number of countries, and worked to improve the health of people developing nations.
- He also helped popularize Habitat for Humanity and has helped build houses for people who need affordable homes.
- Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, the only American President to be recognized for his achievements reached after the left the presidency. (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Barack Obama have received the Nobel Peace Prize for what they did while in office.)
- Carter has been called “America’s Greenest President” since he was so forward-thinking during his four-year tenure.
Jimmy Carter wrote, “It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.”
And it is for comments like this, and his legacy of equality and peace, that we are grateful to Jimmy Carter for being a Whole Champion.