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Jimmy Carter was the 39th president of the United States (1977-81) and later was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
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Learn about the legacy of Jimmy Carter and his many philanthropic efforts.
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Born and raised in Georgia, Jimmy Carter was an officer in the Navy, a peanut farmer, and the 39th President of the United States. Carter's presidency was marked by international crisis and domestic recession.
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The eventual winner was Lester Maddox, an ardent segregationist who had infamously barricaded the doors of his restaurant and brandished an axe to ward off black customers.
Governors were limited to one term under Georgia law, though, so Carter almost immediately began positioning himself for the 1970 gubernatorial election. This time around,
Carter ran a campaign specifically targeted at the white rural voters who had rejected him as too liberal in 1966. Carter publicly opposed busing as a method of integrating public schools, limited public appearances with black leaders and actively courted the endorsements of several noted segregationists, including Governor Maddox. He so completely reversed his staunch commitment to civil rights that the liberal Atlanta Constitution Journal called him an "ignorant, racist, backward, ultra-conservative, red-necked South Georgia peanut farmer." Nevertheless, the strategy worked, and in 1970 Carter defeated Carl Sanders to become governor of Georgia.
Once he was elected governor, Carter largely returned to the progressive values he had promoted earlier in his career. He publicly called for an end to segregation, increased the number of black officials in state government by 25 percent and promoted education and prison reform. Carter's signature accomplishment as governor was slashing and streamlining the enormous state bureaucracy into a lean and efficient machine. However, Carter showed disdain for the niceties of political decorum and alienated many traditional Democratic allies, with whom he might otherwise have worked closely.
Always forward-thinking, Carter carefully observed the national political currents of the 1970s. After the liberal George McGovern got pounded by Republican Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, Carter decided the Democrats needed a centrist figure to regain the presidency in 1976. When the Watergate scandal shattered American confidence in Washington politics, Carter further concluded that the next president would need to be an outsider. He thought he fit the bill on both counts.
Jimmy Carter was one of ten candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, and at first he was probably the least well known. However, in a time of deep frustration with establishment politicians, Carter's anonymity proved an advantage. He campaigned on such centrist themes as reducing government waste, balancing the budget and increasing government assistance to the poor. However, the centerpieces of Carter's appeal were his outsider status and his integrity. "I'll never tell a lie," Carter famously declared. "I'll never avoid a controversial issue." Another of his pithy campaign slogans was "A Leader, For a Change." These themes hit home with an electorate feeling betrayed by its own government during the Watergate scandal.
Carter secured the Democratic nomination to challenge the Republican incumbent Gerald Ford, Nixon's erstwhile vice president, who had assumed the presidency when Nixon resigned in the aftermath of Watergate.
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When Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel died in 1896, he left his fortune to create an annual series of prizes for the individuals who confer "the greatest benefit on mankind." The most prestigious of the awards is the Nobel Peace Prize. Historians believe Alfred Nobel wanted to award people who work for peace to compensate for his own role in inventing dynamite. Since its establishment, the prize has gone to many courageous individuals who have fought for peace and human rights around the world.
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The first U.S. president, former military leader George Washington, took his oath of office on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall. From that moment onward, the United States' highest office has been filled regularly by elected officials who aim to serve the people under the guidance of the U.S. Constitution. Learn more about the 43 men who have served as America's chief executive.
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