Get out the birthday candles. Former President Jimmy Carter turned 95 on Oct. 1!
Carter is the first former president to reach that milestone. His one-term presidency ended in 1981 when he was 56, meaning he also has been an ex-president longer than anyone else in U.S. history — nearly 39 years.
“I’ve had an exciting and adventurous and gratifying existence,” Carter told The Washington Post this year. Here are some interesting details from the life of James Earl Carter Jr., the peanut farmer who became president.
» Carter was born in 1924 in Plains, Georgia, at the hospital where his mother was a nurse. He was the first future president born in a hospital. Named for his father, he went by “Jimmy” all his life, even for his swearing-in as president. He and Rosalynn, his wife of 73 years, still live in Plains, a town of about 700 people.
» The oldest of four children, he was always a hard worker. At age 10, he started selling produce from the family farm. Three years later, he used his savings to buy five houses at dirt-cheap prices, which he then rented to families.
» He is the only president to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. A submarine officer, he gave up his military career seven years later, returning home after his father’s death to take over the family farm and peanut business.
» A former Democratic state senator and governor of Georgia, he ran for president in 1976 as an outsider, promising to never lie to the American people. That November he defeated President Gerald Ford, a Republican. On Inauguration Day 1977, Carter became the first president to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.
» Amy Carter, the youngest of the Carters’ four children (and only daughter), was 9 when she moved into the White House. Her parents, who believe in racial equality and integration, enrolled her in a historically black public school. The only other president to send his child to D.C. public schools was Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.
» To keep up with all the important paperwork at the White House, Carter took a speed-reading course at night. Amy learned to speed-read with him. Carter is also a speed-writer, with more than 30 books in print.
» In 1979, a story was told that the president had been attacked by a “killer rabbit” while fishing near his home. The truth was, a rabbit being chased by hounds jumped in the lake and swam toward Carter’s boat. The president shooed the scared animal away by splashing water with a paddle. Not surprisingly, people seemed to prefer the “killer rabbit” version.
» Carter had a mixed record as president. He promoted educational programs and environmental protection, but sometimes couldn’t get Congress to go along. Growing economic problems included an energy crisis, which led to long lines of people waiting to buy gas. On the plus side, he helped arrange a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. But his unsuccessful efforts to free 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for more than a year partly led to his defeat when he sought re-election in 1980.
» In his post-presidential years, Carter has devoted himself to global concerns such as human rights, disease prevention and fair elections. A favorite cause is Habitat for Humanity, which builds or restores homes for low-income people. Over 35 years, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have helped fix 4,300 homes in 14 countries. In October, they will be at it again in Nashville.
» In 2002 he received the 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.”
» Like his father before him, Carter teaches Sunday school twice each month at a Baptist church in his hometown. People come from faraway places to hear him.