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

Updated on March 22, 2019
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be 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 that had a population of only 550 people. He grew up with strong convictions within the Baptist church, as well as strong political feelings.

He graduated from the Naval Academy with honors in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1946. 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 as a civic leader, 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. This allowed him to seek a political career.

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

In December 1974, Carter decided to run for the Democratic presidential candidate, despite the fact that he was not well-known. He campaigned vigorously for the next two years, gaining great momentum and 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..." This 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. It is believed that Americans appreciated his down-to-earth style.

2002 Nobel Peace Prize

His peace efforts continued past leaving office and he was awarded the 2002 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.” 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.

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 that 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 being viewed as a failure in these areas due to interest rates being at a record high. His efforts in reducing interest rates caused a short recession. Carter also achieved mild success when dealing with energy shortage by denationalizing domestic petroleum prices in order to stimulate production.

Carter felt called to helping 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 as he played a key role in uniting Israel and Egypt in a peace treaty through the Camp David agreement of 1978. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed with problems in Iran and the Soviet Union.

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

Then the news became bombarded with news 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 releasing the hostages. He continued to work towards peace even after leaving the Presidency.

Carter's Presidency

Carter worked hard attempting to solve the problems of inflation and unemployment. He ultimately decreased the budget deficit and increased the employment rate by eight million jobs, although many overlooked these accomplishments because the interest rates were at a record high. In his attempt to reduce the interest rates, it caused a short recession.

He also actively helped with the energy shortage by denationalizing domestic petroleum prices in order to stimulate production; he also created a national energy policy.

The environment was important to him; therefore, he expanded the national park systems, specifically protecting 103 million acres of Alaskan land. He also created the Department of Education and strengthened the Social Security system. Another thing he is noted for is appointing many minorities into Governmental jobs, including women, blacks, and Hispanics.

One of the high points of his presidency was when he mediated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt known as the Camp David agreement of 1978. He continued the hard work of his predecessors in promoting diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by problems in the Soviet Union and Iran. His campaigning for human rights was not received well in the Soviet Union, although he did successfully negotiate SALT II, which was a nuclear limitation treaty with the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, a new cold war began with the Soviet Union in December 1979 when they invaded Afghanistan, which halted the ratification of SALT II.

Further conflict was happening in Iran, including the fall of the Shah, which was the last Persian Monarchy. Then the media exploded, blaming Carter when Iranian students held 52 Americans hostage after seizing the U.S. Embassy in Iran. This tragedy continued throughout the remaining 14 months of his administration.

For over a year, negotiations to release the hostages dragged on, which caused many to blame Carter. He lost a lot of his popularity. Freeing these hostages became one of the primary focuses during the 1980 campaign. Even after Carter lost the election, he continued to work hard getting these people home by participating in difficult negotiations. On Inauguration Day, when Ronald Reagan took office, Iran finally released the hostages.

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). | Source

Fun Facts

  • Worked as a peanut farmer.
  • He was the first president to be born in a hospital.
  • Reads 3-4 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 initially earned Valedictorian in high school, he was denied the honor because he played hooky to watch a movie.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Basic Facts

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

Carter Jogging


List of United States Presidents

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoove
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump


  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Jimmy Carter. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/jimmycarter
  • "Fun and Interesting Facts About President Jimmy Carter." Scholastic. Accessed November 14, 2017. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/fun-and-interesting-facts-about-president-jimmy-carter/.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  • "The Nobel Peace Prize 2002". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 12 Jan 2018. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2002/>
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/#geo-washington.jpg

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz


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      • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        22 months ago from United States

        That is one of my absolute favorite photos of any president... and it has FIVE!

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        22 months ago from Norfolk, England

        How interesting. Of course I've heard of James Carter, but didn't know anything about him, so found this article really useful to read. I love the picture of the 5 presidents.


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