US Democratic statesman and thirty-ninth president of the USA (1977–81).
Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, the son of a peanut farmer and warehouser. Having graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1946, he spent seven years with the US navy. During the latter part of his service he worked on the nuclear submarine programme and was a crew member of one of the first nuclear-powered submarines. His naval career was cut short by his father's death in 1953: as the eldest child Carter felt it his duty to return to Plains and take over the family farm. Over the next twenty years he built up the business into a sizeable concern, expanding the existing interests and embarking on a number of new enterprises.
Carter's political career began in the early 1960s, when he served two terms in the Georgia State Senate. In 1970, after an unsuccessful first attempt four years earlier, he was elected governor of Georgia. At his inaugural address he won the hearts of the black community by declaring that ‘the time for racial discrimination is over’ and during his four years as governor he undertook a radical reorganization of state government and increased the number of blacks in state agencies. In 1974 he announced his intention to stand as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. After a strenuous and well-organized campaign he managed to defeat his rivals at the first ballot. With Gerald R. Ford as his Republican opponent and Senator Walter F. Mondale (1928– ) as his running-mate, Carter embarked on his presidential campaign, promising social and economic reforms and styling himself as ‘a man of the people’. In November 1976 he was elected president.
Two major achievements of Carter's administration were the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, which undertook to transfer control of the canal from the USA to Panama by the end of the century, and the president's involvement and assistance in the peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel in 1979. His attempts to restrict oil imports and his support of the nuclear power programme met with a certain amount of resistance, as did some of his policies for domestic reform. The admittance of the deposed shah of Iran into the USA in 1979 posed serious problems for the Carter administration: a number of Americans were taken hostage in Tehran and the US embassy was seized by Iranian students. These setbacks were not sufficient to prevent Carter's renomination as Democratic candidate for president in 1980 over such rivals as Senator Edward Kennedy (1932–2009). In the presidential election itself, however, he lost to Ronald Reagan, former governor of California. Since 1989 Carter has been involved in international mediation and negotiation efforts in various world trouble spots including Ethiopia, Haiti, and Bosnia.