Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, GA

Carter Presidential Library
Carter Presidential Library

The Carter Center and Jimmy Carter Presidential Library located near downtown in Atlanta is the site of the Presidential Library for the thirty-ninth President, Georgia born James Earl Carter. The Center and Library were dedicated in October 1986.  President Carter, at age 95, is the oldest living former President.

Humble beginnings

Jimmy was born in rural Plains, Georgia, and grew up on his father’s farm. I visited Plains, Georgia in 2017.  It hadn’t changed through the years, but I wouldn’t expect this part of the world to change much. The train track goes through the middle of town.  The general store still sells boiled peanuts.  You can tour the Plain’s school, where both Jimmy and Rosalynn attended.    

Plains School

You can also tour the Carter farm a short ride from the main part of town. The Carter home was well appointed for the time and had several outbuildings and plenty of farm animals.

Navy Career

He attended college at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received his B.S. degree. Jimmy entered the Navy as a submariner and attained the rank of lieutenant. He would go on to study nuclear physics at the direction of Admiral Rickover.  He would finish his naval career as the senior officer on the U.S.S. Seawolf; the second commissioned U.S. nuclear submarine.

Wedding Day attire
Wedding Day attire

Jimmy married Rosalynn in 1946 soon after his graduation from the Naval Academy.  The Carter’s returned to Plains in 1953 after the death of Jimmy’s father. Jimmy resigned his Naval Commission and took over the running of the family peanut farm.  By 1962, Jimmy had been elected to the Georgia Senate and set his eye on a higher elected office.  He was elected Governor of Georgia in 1971. In November 1976, he was elected the 39th President of the United States.

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn, like Jimmy, was born in Plains, and they attended the same high school. They dated while Jimmy attended the Naval Academy. After they married, she was a good navy wife.  When they returned to Plains, she helped run the family business.  She supported her husband in all his campaigns.

In her role as First Lady, she was a mother to daughter, Amy.  She supported the Equal Rights Amendment. She was and continues to be an advocate for mental health.  

One Term President, 1977 to 1981

Carter beat incumbent Gerald Ford in the 1976 election through he won only 23 states to Ford’s 27. In 1976, Carter won the largest percentage of the popular vote since President Dwight Eisenhower. That would all change by 1980 when Reagan would win in a landslide.

While Carter only served one term, he accomplished many extraordinary things while in office; the Camp David Accords, forging peace between Egypt and Israel; the Salt II treaty with the Soviets; the Panama Canal treaties; creation of the Department of Education and Department of Energy as well as other governmental accomplishments. 

Iranian Hostage Crisis
Iranian Hostage Crisis

Carter’s single term in office will always be remembered because of the Iranian Hostage Crisis that occurred in 1979.  When fifty-two U.S. citizens were held for 444 days by followers of the Iranian Revolutionary government.  Only after Ronald Reagan, Carter’s successor had taken the oath of office did the Iranians release the hostages.

Reagan asked Jimmy to fly to Germany to greet the hostages once they were safe. Reagan knew that Carter had worked hard to resolve the extremely volatile situation.

Times they are a-changing…

1979-Shah of Iran leaves Iran and admitted for medical treatment in the U.S., the Iranian Revolution begins, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident occurs, the hostages taken at the American Embassy in Iran, and the Soviets invade Afghanistan.

  1980-Boycott of the Olympics in Moscow, the hostage rescue mission fails, Mount St. Helen’s erupted, and Iraq invades Iran.

Carter had a lot of international issues to deal with while in office.

Carter's notable achievements
Carter’s notable achievements

Camp David Accords

The men of the Camp David Accords
The men of the Camp David Accords

Carter brought together Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel and Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, to stabilize the relations between the two countries.  Although the “framework of peace” was laid out, little has been accomplished toward peace in the Middle East.  

Nobel Peace Prize

Carter's Noble Prize
Carter’s Noble Prize

President Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “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.” In his speech, Carter said that a former teacher told him, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.”

The Presidential Library

Carter's Documents
Carter’s Documents

The Library is a research facility and museum. The archives contain approximately 27 million pages from the Carter White House and half a million photographs as well as film, audio, and videotape.   

The library tour begins with the early family life of both Jimmy and Rosalynn’s in Plains, Georgia.  As you progress through the campaign years, you will learn how they overcame “Jimmy Who?”  You will tour the Oval Office and can view Jimmy’s typical day in the White House.

In the White House
In the White House

Visitors learn about the secret meetings that took place to achieve the Camp David Accords and the astounding amount of diplomatic work it took to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis.

Jordan on the Hostage Crisis
Jordan on the Hostage Crisis

You will learn about Jimmy and Rosalynn’s work around the globe in their post-presidency years. Visitors will appreciate many unique artifacts throughout the library.   

The Carter Center

The Carter Center promotes democracy, human rights, and conflict resolution around the world. His words from his Nobel speech sum up the Center’s mission: “War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make changes – and we must.”

Post Presidency

Jimmy Carter has contributed more to the U.S. since leaving the presidency than any other recent officeholder.  At 95, both he and Rosalynn work with Habitat for Humanity one week a year.  His work around the globe on election supervision has held to the strengthening of democratic guidance in many countries. The Carter Center’s mission “is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.”

Author, Author

Some of Carter's books
Some of Carter’s books

Carter is the author of thirty-two books on a wide variety of topics, from poetry and diplomacy to his memoirs. Rosalynn has penned five books.

At the Carter Center and Presidential Library, you will learn the story of Jimmy’s and Rosalynn’s contributions to the country in great detail. If you’re in Atlanta, it is an informative stop.

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