Jimmy Carter: The Oldest Living President Is Still Building Houses
Former President Jimmy Carter Jr. and country singer Willie Nelsonin 1985. Photo by Thomas S. England/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images
An avid birdwatcher, humanitarian, and all-around nice guy, Jimmy Carter brought a kind of folksy wisdom with him to the White House when he was elected president in 1976. He was born in 1924, the first president to arrive via the hospital, and he carried that Depression-era mindfulness with him through his presidency and into his post-political career. He managed to make friends with people on both sides of the aisle even when he was thinking out of the box, likely because he’s such a nice guy. Throughout his life he’s had run-ins with Elvis, he sold the presidential boat, and he’s never let his station go to his head.
Jimmy Carter Lives In A $167,000 House
After residing in the White House for four years it has to be hard to move somewhere with less stature, somewhere small, but that’s exactly what Jimmy Carter did after his term in office. Following the end of his presidency, Carter moved back to the Plains, Georgia ranch home that he built for himself in 1967. Carter’s house is just a two-bedroom home, and it’s been assessed at $167,000, almost $10,000 below the normal value of a similar home in Georgia. While other presidents have moved to farms or full-on estates, Carter didn’t let his status as President change him one bit.
It's inspiring to see someone who's risen to the top of the political hierarchy in America eschew the trappings of wealth in order to live how he wants to live. Carter, summed up his lifestyle perfectly while speaking with the Washington Post when he said, "It just never had been my ambition to be rich."
He Keeps His Costs Low
Former politicians of all stripes and rankings have found success post-office by writing books and going on the lucrative speaking circuit, and while Carter has definitely made his fair share of cash from those endeavors he’s managed to keep his costs low by shopping at places like Dollar General for his necessities.
In 2004 Carter showed up at the opening of the Plains, Georgia, Dollar General, which is a wonderful show of support for people who might be embarrassed to shop at a place with bargain rates. Aside from shopping at the General, Carter also flies commercial whenever he travels rather than booking a private plane as most people of his stature are wont to do.
On His Second Day In Office, President Jimmy Carter Pardoned All Of The Vietnam War Draft Evaders
During Vietnam thousands of Americans escaped the draft by traveling north to Canada, unaware of whether or not they’d ever been able to return to the States. One of Carter’s election promises was to pardon every draft dodger, ensuring that they could return to their families. The reaction to Carter’s promise was mixed, likely because even in the ‘70s voters were used to presidential hopefuls not following through on their promises. But Carter was a man of his word and on his second day in office, he pardoned draft dodgers, allowing them to return to America. He's a man who just likes to help.
Elvis Called Jimmy Carter The Day He Was Elected
It’s not out of the ordinary for an elected official to receive a congratulatory phone call from someone after they’re sworn into office, but when Jimmy Carter took on the mantle of the presidency he fielded a call from The King that was less about well-wishing and more about what Carter could do for the singer. Unfortunately, Carter couldn’t really understand what he saying.
At the time, Elvis was seeking a pardon for one of his friends, a sheriff who found himself in hot water. President Carter explained:
He was totally stoned and didn’t know what he was saying. His sentences were almost incoherent… I asked him what the sheriff’s sentence was, and he said that he hadn’t been tried in court yet. Well, I said, ‘Elvis, I can’t consider a pardon until after a trial and sentencing and everything.’ I don’t think he understood that.
He Sold The Uss Sequoia, The Presidential Yacht, In The 1970s
Initially known as the “floating White House,” the USS Sequoia served US Presidents from 1929 during the Hoover administration until Carter sold the boat in 1977. At the time the boat cost $800,000 in upkeep, which is a lot of money for something that's rarely used, and Carter simply felt that this was too much money for taxpayers to spend on a boat. He sold it for $286,000 to Thomas Malloy. Carter later admitted that this was one of the reasons why he wasn’t reelected in his race against Ronald Reagan. He explained:
People thought I was not being reverent enough to the office I was holding, that I was too much of a peanut farmer, not enough of an aristocrat, or something like that. So I think that shows that the American people want something of, an element of, image of monarchy in the White House.
When Reagan Praised Him When The Carter Presidential Library Was Opened
While they were on opposite sides of the political spectrum and rivals in the 1980 presidential election, it’s clear that Presidents Carter and Reagan had professional respect for one another that extended beyond their many differences in policy. While dedicating Carter’s Atlanta-based presidential library in 1980, President Reagan referred to Carter as someone who is “distinctively and gloriously American” in front of 5,000 spectators. Reagan continued, stating:
For myself, I can pay no higher honor than to say simply this, You gave of yourself to your country, gracing the White House with your passion and intellect and commitment.
Carter Has Spent His Golden Years Helping The Less Fortunate
Anyone who makes it to their 90s has earned the right to take it easy and kick up their feet, but President Carter isn’t one to rest on his laurels. Since leaving office he’s continued to help the less fortunate by building low-income housing. In 2019 he was working with habitat for humanity when he suffered a nasty fall and broke his hip. Rather than hang up his hard hat, Carter went back to work after hip surgery. It’s clear that the former President not only loves to give back to the community but that he sees it as his life’s mission to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.
Tags: Jimmy Carter | US Presidents
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