Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States of America, from 1977-1981. A key figure in the fight for human rights, Carter is still alive today and remains the oldest ex-President in history at a ripe old age of 89, surpassing Herbert Hoover in September 2012. His marriage with Rosalynn Smith spans 67 years and is the second longest of any President and First Lady, behind George and Barbara Bush. In addition to his presidency, Carter has also had a fascinating life; below are some of the more interesting anecdotes and tidbits from his time before, during and after the White House.
1) He was born in a hospital
Whilst it might not sound that remarkable, Jimmy Carter was actually the first US President to have been born in a hospital, in October 1924. He was born in the Wise Clinic in Plains, Georgia, where his mother Lilian worked as a nurse. After he became president, the hospital changed its name to commemorate his mother’s time there, and today the Lilian. G Carter Nursing Center is a care-home for the mentally ill.
2) He was a peanut farmer
Although he initially aspired to a career in the US Navy, his father’s death prompted him to take over the family business as a peanut farmer. His father had been successful but due to the division of his inheritance, Carter received relatively little. In fact, he and his wife Rosalynn were forced to live in housing subsidized for the poor; he is the only president to have done so. Nevertheless, he achieved great success with the farming business, before leaving it to pursue a career in politics. His achievements in the peanut farming industry were marked at his presidential inauguration by the presence of a huge peanut-shaped balloon.
3) He was the first deep south President elected since the Civil War
Carter’s great-grandfather actually fought in the Civil War on the side of the Confederates, and over a hundred years later Jimmy became the first man from the deep south of the States to enter the White House. Of course, this must be qualified. Andrew Johnson, from North Carolina, took the presidency immediately after the war, though he was never elected but simply stepped into the vacancy left by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Since there have been several presidents from southern states, such as Woodrow Wilson (Virginia), Dwight D. Eisenhower (Texas) and Lyndon B. Johnson (also Texas), though few would consider these deep southern states, and it is debatable whether the men considered themselves “true southerners”.
4) He appeared in Playboy
With his clothes on, thankfully. He became the only President to have been interviewed in Playboy magazine in 1976, one year before taking to the White House. In the interview he famously admitted to being guilty of lust. Carter’s exact words were: “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do—and I have done it—and God forgives me for it.” The interview caused an outcry from his political opponents and many sections of the media – bear in mind he was running for the presidency at this point – but even so he remained unapologetic and stood by his comments.
5) He won a Nobel Peace Prize
Although he is not the only president to have won a Nobel Peace Prize, with Theodore Roosevelt (1905), Woodrow Wilson (1919) and, more recently, Barack Obama (2009) all scooping the prestigious award as well, Carter is the only one to have claimed it in his post-presidential career. After losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan, Carter returned to his peanut farm (which due to negligence in his absence, was now over $1m in debt) and pursued more humanitarian ends. In 1982 he set up the Carter Center, which aimed at propagating the common good and ridding the world of suffering. In 2002 he was honored with the Prize, and in fact it is often thought that his post-presidential career was far more successful than his time in the White House.
6) He saw a UFO
In 1969, whilst giving a speech in Leary, Georgia, Carter and several others witnessed a strange light in the sky, which he claimed approached the group, changed color several times, before receding into the distance. Four years later, whilst Governor of Georgia, he was asked to file a report on the incident, which he did. Since there has been much debate about the accuracy of his report (with there being some discrepancy about the date and other details), though he himself has stated that he never believed it to be an alien aircraft. Experts have speculated that it may have been Venus, which Carter, as an amateur astronomy enthusiast, vehemently refutes.
7) He is part of the ‘Elders’
No, they are not a weird cult or that folk rock band. The ‘Elders’ are a group formed in 2007 by Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. They are self-described as “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.” Among their 12 numbers are the chair Kofi Annan, former chair and now honorary member Desmond Tutu and of course, Jimmy Carter. They aim to use their collective experience (over 1,000 years in total) in bringing about an end to disease, famine and war. In 2011, Carter visited Pyongyang in North Korea along with three other former heads of state, Marti Ahtisaari of Finland, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway and Mary Robinson of Ireland, in order to try and ease tension between North Korea and its southern neighbor.
8) He is a prolific author
Since leaving the White House, Carter has penned over 20 books on a variety of topics, ranging from such topics as religion, human rights, poetry and the transience of life. He has even written a children’s book which is illustrated by his daughter, Amy. As well as writing his own books, Carter is also a renowned speed-reader, reportedly being able to read up to 2000 words per minute! During his time in the White House, he and his wife actually attended a speed-reading course to hone their skills and devour more books.