U.S. President Jimmy Carter Personal Life

About the U.S. President Jimmy Carter, personal life and marriage, history and biography.

39th President

JAMES EARL CARTER, JR.

Personal Life: "He just liked girls. But when he got older he liked the wild ones." So said Miss Lillian of her son. Carter began dating at 13, when he took a neighbor girl out on the town in the family pickup. Perhaps it was his taste for the "wild ones" that made him overlook the shy, petite Rosalynn Smith for so long. He barely noticed the teenage girl, who used to visit his sister Ruth on Saturday nights to sing along with Your Hit Parade on the radio. Then one day early in his final year at Annapolis he blew back into Plains on leave and asked Ruth to fix him up with her friend. Miss Smith eagerly accepted the date. Jimmy and Rosalynn doubled with another couple to go to a movie; they rode in the rumble seat. He dated her again on Christmas vacation, and that night the couple parked in front of her house and stargazed. Rosalynn scooted lower into her seat to get a better look at the moon. Midshipman Carter, smiling no doubt, looked down at this 18-year-old daughter of a local mechanic and said simply, "I love you."

"I love you, too," Rosalynn replied. That was that. A few more dates tided them over until Jimmy graduated the following summer. They were married on July 7, 1946.

The couple's first real shouting match came in 1953, when Jimmy announced that they would give up the navy to return to Plains. Rosalynn, who had grown into an independent navy wife while she was hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from her protective mother and somewhat domineering mother-in-law, had no desire to return to stifling small-town life. Jimmy won the debate.

Few presidents have so publicly displayed affection for their wives. Often they can be seen holding hands unostentatiously or sitting with their knees touching. Separations during the campaign were agony for Carter. Whenever their campaign trails crossed, Carter never failed to greet Rosalynn with a strong kiss and more than a perfunctory squeeze.

Carter once sat across a dinner table from Elizabeth Taylor, totally mesmerized by her beauty. He stared at her as she carried her end of the conversation and continued to sit transfixed after she asked him a question. When she pressed for an answer, the best the dazed future President could come up with was "I'm sorry, Ms. Taylor, I'm sure you were talking to me, but I didn't hear a word you said."

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