Jimmy Carter was born in rural Georgia in 1924 to a farmer/businessman and a registered nurse. Most of Carter’s childhood neighbors were poor African-Americans, and though his father supported segregation, many of Carter’s friends were the children of black farmhands. Early on, he learned of marginalization and unjust distribution of resources.
He attended public schools and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, rose to the rank of lieutenant, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the second nuclear submarine. After his father’s death, Carter returned to Georgia to run the family farm and business, and quickly became a community leader. He served in state politics and, as Georgia’s governor, advocated for civil rights. In 1977 he became the 39th president of the United States. He helmed peace treaties in the Middle East, crafted significant environmental protections, and created a new Department of Education.
He opened the Carter Center in 1982 to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease. The Center spearheaded the international effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease—poised to be the second human disease eradicated in history. Every year since 1984, Carter has volunteered a week with Habitat for Humanity,
building and repairing thousands of homes in 14 countries. He has authored 31 books, ranging from personal history and fiction, to urgent polemics and poetry. As a clarion voice for the disenfranchised, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
In recent years he has turned his keen and compassionate eye to what he calls the number one human rights abuse: systematic injustice against women and girls. “Women are key agents of the change we need,” he said recently. “When half the world’s population is not consulted on important decisions and policies, it is no wonder that so many problems persist.”