U.S. President Jimmy Carter Career Before Presidency Part 2

About the U.S. President Jimmy Carter, early life and career before the presidency, history and biography, physical description.

39th President

JAMES EARL CARTER, JR.

BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY

Jimmy and Rosalynn settled into an apartment in a federal housing project in Plains and began work. Turned down for a bank loan, Carter dipped into his small savings for the first year's seed money. But the 1954 peanut crop was so bad that he netted less than $200 that year and was forced to sell fertilizer to make ends meet. But the ends did meet, indeed they overlapped in the next few years, until the Carters--Jimmy in the fields, Rosalynn keeping the books--built their peanut business into an $800,000-a-year enterprise.

Public life for Carter began with the chairmanship of the Sumter County School Board in 1955. He gave it up after seven years to run for the Georgia Senate. Although he lost the primary, he hung around the polls long enough to detect a significant election fraud. He filed a formal challenge in the courts, and--three days before the general election--he was declared the official Democratic nominee. He served four years in the statehouse, earning a cautiously liberal reputation there. He strengthened his liberal credentials in 1965, when the civil rights movement ripped through the Plains Baptist Church, of which he was a deacon. He argued passionately, but in vain, to open the pews to blacks. In 1966 he placed third in a six-way gubernatorial race which eventually went to Lester Maddox. Almost immediately he began campaigning for 1970. He made nearly 2,000 speeches around the state, and this time a slightly different Carter was on the stump. Running against moderate Carl Sanders, an urbane, well-groomed former governor, Carter saw no need to emphasize his liberal background. Instead, he attacked school busing, denounced "establishment power brokers" and "the big money boys," and referred to his natty opponent as "Cufflinks Carl." He even invited George Wallace into the state to campaign for him. Whether opportunistic or heartfelt, the strategy forced Sanders into a runoff, where Carter trounced him 59%--41%. By the same margin, he defeated the Republican candidate in November.

At this point many Georgians wondered which Jimmy Carter, the liberal or the conservative, would stand up as governor. He dispelled all doubts when he rose to deliver his inaugural address on Jan. 2, 1971: "I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over. No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice."

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