Jimmy Carter: What to know about the former president and humanitarian

President Jimmy Carter served as the 39th president of the United States, from 1977 to 1981, but before that, he was the 76th governor of Georgia and a member of the Georgia State Senate.

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Although he’s had a lengthy career in politics, Carter has worked as a diplomat and humanitarian. He’s also authored dozens of books.

Here are some things to know about President Carter.

Naval Academy graduate

Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, at the top of his class in 1946. He started a Navy career soon after, spending five years on submarine duty.

Father of four

Carter married Rosalynn Smith, who became Rosalynn Carter, in 1946, soon after graduating from high school. They had four children: Jack Carter, born in 1947; James Carter, born in 1950; Donnel Carter, born in 1952; and Amy Carter, born in 1967.

Rebuilt family’s peanut warehouse

In his hometown of Plains, Georgia, Carter's parents, Earl and Lillian Carter, owned a peanut farm, warehouse and store. When Earl Carter died of cancer in 1953, Carter resigned from the Navy, came back home and worked to rebuild the business. Despite a drought in 1954 and a boycott against integration, Carter made the business profitable by 1959.

Devoted to humanitarianism

The Carter Center opened in 1982, and its mission, in partnership with Emory University in Atlanta, is to resolve conflicts and improve human health through a commitment to human rights. Part of that work led Carter to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Cancer survivor

Carter was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in August 2015. While teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, he said he had surgery on a mass on his liver and had radiation treatment on four melanoma spots in his brain.

Despite the diagnosis, Carter remained active in his humanitarian work, helping build a Habitat for Humanity house in Memphis, Tennessee.

In May 2016, Carter Center director of communications Deanna Congileo confirmed that Carter did not need any more treatments but would “continue scans and resume treatment if necessary.”

Carter had additional medical issues in 2019. Carter experienced a fall in his home in Plains, Georgia, which required stitches above his brow. After a series of such falls, Carter had successful surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by a subdural hematoma. Carter also recovered from an infection associated with that hospital stay.

Documentary

In February 2020, a documentary about Carter, “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President,” debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.

On racial justice

In June 2020, Carter released a statement about the George Floyd case. In part it read, “Rosalynn and I are pained by the tragic racial injustices and consequent backlash across our nation in recent weeks. Our hearts are with the victims’ families and all who feel hopeless in the face of pervasive racial discrimination and outright cruelty. We all must shine a spotlight on the immorality of racial discrimination. But violence, whether spontaneous or consciously incited, is not a solution.”