Skip to main content

James Carter, 39th President: Winner of 2002 Nobel Peace Prize

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Official White House Photograph

Early Years

James Earl Carter Jr., the 39th president of the United States, considered himself a "simple country boy." He was also the first Southerner in over a century to become president. He served for one term from 1977 to 1981.

He was born on October 1, 1924, in a small town called Plains, Georgia, which had a population of only 550 people. He grew up with solid convictions within the Baptist church and strong political feelings.

In 1946, he graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, with honors. He studied nuclear physics while there and later served in the Navy's nuclear submarine program. Soon after graduating, he married Rosalynn Smith. They had three sons and a daughter together: John William "Jack," James Earl III "Chip," Donnel Jeffrey "Jeff," and Amy Lynn. He was active within the community, including a civic leader, a school board member, and a deacon at his church.

He continued his service as a naval officer for seven years. When his father passed away in 1953, James moved his family back to Plains and took over his father's peanut farming business, causing him to leave the military, which allowed him to seek a political career.

In 1962, at the age of 38, he became a state senator. Eight years later, he became the governor of Georgia as a Democrat. He was very successful and worked hard, removing racial barriers and increasing the efficiency of the government.

In December 1974, Carter decided to run as the Democratic presidential candidate, even though he was not well-known. He campaigned vigorously for the next two years, gaining significant momentum as he was nominated on the first ballot at the Democratic Convention. His running mate was Senator Walter F. Mondale.

His campaign promised to restore to the presidency "all that is good and decent and honest and truthful and fair and competent...," which was only three years after Richard Nixon had resigned due to Watergate, leaving Gerald R. Ford as president. After three debates against Ford, Carter won by a narrow victory with 297 electoral votes, while Ford only had 241. Some believe that Americans appreciated his down-to-earth style.

Dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library

Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library (Left to right).

Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library (Left to right).

Presidential Years

He won a very narrow victory over Ford with 297 electoral votes, while Ford had 241. They appreciated his down-to-earth style since his daughter Amy attended a public school, he jogged for exercise, and he and his wife walked and waved in the Inaugural Parade.

Carter worked hard at solving the problems of inflation, unemployment, and rising energy costs. By the end of his administration, he was able to boast an increase of nearly eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit. Despite these boasts, because interest rates were at a record high, he was viewed as a failure in these areas. His efforts to reduce interest rates caused a short recession. Carter also achieved mild success when dealing with energy shortages by denationalizing domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production.

Carter felt called to help improve the environment; therefore, he expanded the national park system. One of his great efforts in environmental protection was preserving 103 million acres of Alaskan lands.

He was very involved in social services and even created the Department of Education. He also appointed a record number of minority groups to government jobs, including women, blacks, and Hispanics.

The high point of his presidency was playing a crucial role in uniting Israel and Egypt in a peace treaty through the Camp David agreement of 1978. Unfortunately, problems in Iran and the Soviet Union overshadowed his efforts.

Many were happy with the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty negotiations with the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, causing a severe setback in ratifying the SALT II pact.

A significant event was when Iranian students held 52 Americans hostage after seizing the U.S. embassy in Iran. For over a year, negotiations to release the hostages dragged on, which caused many to blame Carter, causing him to lose his popularity. Freeing these hostages became one of the primary focuses during the 1980 campaign. Even when he lost the election, he continued to work hard at getting the hostages released. On Inauguration Day, when Ronald Reagan took office, Carter finally succeeded in freeing the hostages. He continued to work towards peace even after leaving the presidency.

2002 Nobel Peace Prize

His peace efforts continued after leaving office. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, advance democracy and human rights, and promote economic and social development." The Chairman of the Nobel Committee even stated that he felt Carter should have received this award much sooner, citing his 1978 peace efforts with Egypt and Israel.

Fun Facts

  • He worked as a peanut farmer.
  • He was the first president to be born in a hospital.
  • Reads three to four books a week and took a speed reading course. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is one of his favorite books.
  • When he was five years old, he stole a penny from the collection plate at church. His father punished him later.
  • Although he initially earned Valedictorian in high school, he was denied the honor because he played hooky to watch a movie.

Carter Jogging

Basic Facts

Question Answer


October 1, 1924

President Number




Military Service

United States Navy - Lieutenant

Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

53 years old

Term of Office

January 20,1977 January 20, 1981

How Long President

4 years


Walter Mondale

Age and Year of Death


Cause of Death



  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Jimmy Carter. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  • "Fun and Interesting Facts About President Jimmy Carter." Scholastic. Accessed November 14, 2017.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  • "The Nobel Peace Prize 2002". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 12 Jan 2018. <>
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz