Knowing the Presidents; James E. Carter

James E. Carter

Thirty-Ninth President, 1977-1981


James E. “Jimmy” Carter was largely unknown to the public prior to his candidacy for president. This made him favorable to a public which had lost hope in the government after the Vietnam War and Watergate.


During the Iran crisis, the United States military failed in a hostage rescue mission when militant Muslims, outraged over warm treatment by the American government towards the increasingly tyrannical Shah of Iran, stormed the American embassy and took sixty-six Americans hostage. After the failure, and  left with a weak image, Jimmy Carter was politically doomed. Eventually, he organized the release of the hostages, agreeing that the U.S. would no longer interfere with Iranian politics.

Carter was faced with a failing economy, with runaway inflation and double-digit interest rates.

Major Acts:

The Camp David Accords of 1978 and 1979 orchestrated a historic agreement: Israel would withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula; the U.S. would ensure that neither Israel nor Egypt would attack the other; both would recognize each other’s governments and sign a peace treaty; and Israel pledged to negotiate with the Palestinians for peace.

Jimmy Carter’s Energy Security Act created the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation, which would ultimately provide $20 billion to the economy. He also temporarily reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil.


Jimmy Carter was known as an independent, hardworking, and somewhat stubborn president and former peanut farmer. He restored balance to the “imperial presidency” of Nixon, and despite a lack of experience, confronted problems with composure, resolution, and optimism.

In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “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.”