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Billy Carter is best known for his connections to his brother, Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States.
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Businessman, brother of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Born William Alton Carter III on March 29, 1937, in Plains, Georgia. The young brother of President Jimmy Carter, Billy Carter gained notoriety for his failed beer business and his business dealings with the Libyan government in the 1970s. With a thirteen-year age difference, Billy spent much of his life in the shadow of his older brother Jimmy. They grew up poor in a small rural town with their parents and two sisters. Billy was very close with their father Earl, a farmer and businessman.
After Earl’s death from pancreatic cancer in 1953, Billy was heartbroken and became even more upset when his brother Jimmy came back to Plains to take over the family farm and related businesses. A poor student, Billy dropped out at seventeen to join the U.S. Marine Corps. While in the service, he married his wife Sybil and started a family. He and his family moved to Plains after Carter completed his time with the corps.
Carter worked for the family business and gradually took over the responsibilities from his older brother as Jimmy began to pursue a career in politics. Billy’s down-home, near redneck persona was a sharp contrast to his brother’s more reserved and refined image. Billy’s public image was an asset and a liability to Jimmy as he ran for the presidency in 1976. Billy’s country-boy style endeared him to many and highlighted Jimmy’s southern roots. But his frequent beer drinking and candid nature could not have been easy for someone on the campaign trail.
After Jimmy took office in 1977, Billy moved from Plains to a nearby town with his family to avoid the crowds that came to see the president’s hometown. While he did not want to deal with the visitors, he was happy to capitalize on his notoriety as the president’s brother. He launched his own beer company that same year, selling what he called Billy Beer. Initially the product generated a lot of publicity. This, unfortunately, did not translate into a steady stream of revenue for the venture. The beer business soon folded, but Carter continued to run the family farm and a gas station he owned.
In 1978 and in 1979, Carter visited the country of Libya, working on an oil business deal. He received a $220,000 loan from the Libyan government. Some thought that he was abusing his position as the president’s brother and Billy’s actions became the subject of a Senate investigation. The timing of the investigation was incredibly damaging to Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid, even though he was never involved in his brother’s activities.
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