Carter was born in Georgia, the son of a peanut farmer and state politician. He was educated during the Great Depression, later attending Georgia Tech and enrolling in the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. Carter served seven years in the US Navy, five of them onboard nuclear submarines. He returned to Georgia after his father’s death to manage the family’s business interests.
In the early 1960s, Carter followed his late father into state politics. He was elected to the Georgia state assembly in 1962 and later served one term as state governor of Georgia (1971-75).
Carter declared himself a candidate for the presidency in 1974. Though little known nationally, Carter’s genial and trustworthy persona appealed to American voters, many of whom had been disenchanted by the Vietnam War and Watergate. Carter was elected president in November 1976, defeating the incumbent Gerald Ford.
Carter faced some significant challenges during his presidency, including lingering discontent over Watergate and the loss of Vietnam, conflicts in the Middle East, a paralysing energy crisis, a domestic economy hampered by debt and inflation, and the Iran hostage crisis.
Carter did not adopt a strong foreign policy position until late in his presidency, when he condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and attempts by Moscow to strengthen Soviet influence in the Persian Gulf. The Carter Doctrine, articulated in January 1980, declared that the US would use military force to protect its “vital interests” in the Middle East. Carter gave weight to this promise by increasing America’s naval presence in the region.
Carter also supported the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which evolved as a protest against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the November 1980 election. He returned to Georgia, penned his memoirs and has since been active as a roving diplomat, an active philanthropist and a spokesman for various causes.