Happy Birthday Jimmy Carter: America’s Oldest Living President Turns 97 Today

by Suzanne Halliburton

Happy birthday, Jimmy Carter! The 39th president of the United States and one-time peanut farmer from Georgia, turned 97, Friday.

Carter already was the oldest living former president. He’s just padding the margin now.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library wished the former president best wishes early Friday morning. The Twitter account posted a throwback photo to Carter’s final birthday in office — he was 56 on Oct. 1, 1980. The tweet also said:

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY to PRESIDENT CARTER!! Today President Carter turns 97 years old!! Join us in wishing him a wonderful day & many many more to come! On 10/1/80 he was presented with a birthday cake from @UAW for his 56th birthday.

Jimmy Carter Was Born and Raised in Small Town. He Appealed to Voters As an Everyman

Carter always has been an every man. He was born in Plains, Ga., a dot of a town in the southwestern part of the state. And he never really left his small-town roots. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and immediately began his service to the country, working on submarines. When his father died, he hurried home to take care of the family farm and his mother, who eventually became known to the country as Miss Lillian. He served in the Navy Reserves until 1961.

Jimmy Carter found his perfect, life-long love, Rosalynn, when he was about three. Obviously, he didn’t know it at the time. But he was aware that the Carters next-door neighbors had a little girl. Jimmy’s mother, a nurse, helped deliver her. Rosalynn became interested in Jimmy when Jimmy started attending the Naval Academy. He was driving through Plains one day when Jimmy noticed his sister walking with another girl. He asked Rosalynn to the movies. They were married in 1946.

In 2019, a reporter asked Jimmy Carter about the key to living a good life in his 90s.

“The best explanation for that is to marry the best spouse,” Carter said. “Someone who will take care of you and engage and do things to challenge you and keep you alive and interested in life.”

Rosalynn is a spry 94. The two celebrated their 75th anniversary earlier this year.

Jimmy Carter started in politics in the 1960s when he became a state senator in Georgia. He was elected governor in 1970. By 1975, he ran as a dark horse candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. No one really knew him outside Georgia political circles. But many American voters desired a change from the status quo, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the VP who finished out Nixon’s term.

Carter’s Great Achievement After President — Habitat for Humanity

Jimmy Carter served only one term. During that time, he pardoned everyone who evaded the Vietnam Draft. And he boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics. The economy took a bad turn while he was in office. And at the end of his term, he dealt with the hostage crisis in Iran. The hostages weren’t released until the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

But when people look at Jimmy Carter and his life, they’ll think of his post-presidency humanitarian work. He is well known for Habitat for Humanity. As of 2020, he and Rosalynn have worked on 4,390 homes in 14 countries. More than 104,000 worked beside them.

Once out of Washington, D.C., the Carters moved back to Plains. He taught Sunday school at the local church up until the Covid-19 pandemic.