Jimmy Carter Turns 99 at Home 10/01 08:57
ATLANTA (AP) -- Jimmy Carter has always been a man of discipline and habit.
But the former president will break routine Sunday, putting off his practice of
quietly watching church services online to instead celebrate his 99th birthday
with his wife, Rosalynn, and their children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren in Plains.
The gathering will take place in the same one-story structure where the
Carters lived before he was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962. It
comes amid tributes from around the world. But for Carter's family, it's an
opportunity to honor a personal legacy.
"The remarkable piece to me and I think to my family is that while my
grandparents have accomplished so much, they have really remained the same sort
of South Georgia couple that lives in a 600-person village where they were
born," said grandson Jason Carter, who chairs the board at The Carter Center,
which his grandparents founded in 1982 after leaving the White House a year
Despite being global figures, the younger Carter said his grandparents have
always "made it easy for us, as a family, to be as normal as we can be."
Celebrating the longest-lived U.S. president this way was inconceivable not
long ago. The Carters announced in February that their patriarch was forgoing
further medical treatments and entering home hospice care after a series of
hospitalizations. Yet Carter, who overcame cancer diagnosed at age 90 and
learned to walk after having his hip replaced at age 94, defied all odds again.
"If Jimmy Carter were a tree, he'd be an towering, old Southern oak," said
Donna Brazile, a former Democratic national chairperson and presidential
campaign manager who got her start on Carter's campaigns. "He's as good as they
come and tough as they come."
Jill Stuckey, a longtime Plains resident who visits the former first couple
regularly, cautioned to "never underestimate Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter."
His latest resilience has allowed Carter a rare privilege even for
presidents: He's been able to enjoy months of accolades typically reserved for
when a former White House resident dies. The latest round includes a flood of
messages from world leaders and pop culture figures donning "Jimmy Carter 99"
hats, with many of them focusing on Carter's four decades of global
humanitarian work after leaving the Oval Office.
Katie Couric, the first woman to anchor a U.S. television network's evening
news broadcast, praised Carter in a social media video for his "relentless
effort every day to make the world a better place."
She pointed to Carter's work to eradicate Guinea worm disease and river
blindness, while advocating for peace and democracy in scores of countries. She
noted he has written 32 books and worked for decades with Habitat for Humanity
building houses for low-income people.
"Oh, yeah, and you were governor of Georgia. And did I mention president of
the United States?" she joked. "When are you going to stop slacking off?"
Bill Clinton, the 42nd president and first Democratic president after
Carter's landslide defeat, showed no signs of the chilly relationship the two
fellow Southerners once had.
"Jimmy! Happy birthday," Clinton said. "You only get to be 99 once. It's
been a long, good ride, and we thank you for your service and your friendship
and the enduring embodiment of the American dream."
Musician Peter Gabriel led concertgoers at Madison Square Garden in a
rendition of "Happy Birthday," as did the Indigo Girls at a recent concert.
In Atlanta, the Carter Library & Museum and adjacent The Carter Center was
holding a weekend of events, including a naturalization ceremony for 99 new
citizens on Sunday. Festivities at the museum, which offered 99-cent admission
Saturday, were slated to continue Sunday after Congress came to an agreement to
avoid a partial government shutdown at the start of the federal fiscal year,
which coincides with Carter's birthday.
Jason Carter said his grandfather has found it "gratifying" to see
reassessments of his presidency. Carter's term often has been broad-brushed as
a failure because of inflation, global fuel shortages and the holding of
American hostages in Iran, a confluence that led to Republican Ronald Reagan's
Yet Carter's focus on diplomacy, his emphasis on the environment before the
climate crisis was widely acknowledged and his focus on efficient government --
his presidency added a relative pittance to the national debt -- have garnered
second looks from historians.
Indeed, Carter's longevity offers a frame to illuminate both how much the
world has changed over his lifetime while still recognizing that certain
political and societal challenges endure.
The Carter Center's disease-eradication work occurs mostly in developing
countries. But Jimmy and Roslaynn Carter were first exposed to river blindness
growing up surrounded by the crushing poverty of the rural Deep South during
the Great Depression.
The Center's global democracy advocacy has reached countries that were still
part of various European empires when Carter was born in 1924 or were under
heavy American influence in the decades after World War II. Yet in recent
years, Carter has declared his own country to be more of an "oligarchy" than a
well-functioning democracy. And the Center has since become involved in
monitoring and tracking U.S. elections.
Carter has lived long enough finally to have a genuine friend in the Oval
Office again. President Joe Biden was a young Delaware politician in 1976 and
became the first U.S. senator to endorse Carter's campaign against better-known
Washington figures. Now, as Biden seeks reelection in 2024, he faces the
headwinds of inflation that Republicans openly compare to Carter's economy.
Biden had a wooden birthday cake display placed on the White House front law to
The year Carter was born, Congress passed sweeping immigration restrictions,
sharply curtailing Ellis Island as a portal to the nation. Now, the
naturalization ceremony to mark Carter's 99th birthday comes as Washington
continues a decades-long fight over immigration policy. Republicans,
especially, have moved well to the right of Reagan, who in 1986 signed a
sweeping amnesty policy for millions of immigrants who were in the country
illegally or had no sure legal path to citizenship.
Carter also was born into Jim Crow segregation, at a time when the Ku Klux
Klan marched openly on state capitols and in Washington. As governor and
president, Carter set new marks for appointing Black Americans to top
government posts. At 99, Carter's Sunday online church circuit includes
watching Georgia's first Black U.S. senator, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, preach
at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Yet, at the same time, some white state
lawmakers in Carter's native region are defying the U.S. Supreme Court in an
effort to curtail Black voters' strength at the ballot box.
Jason Carter said understanding his grandfather's impact means resisting the
urge to assess whether he solved every problem he confronted or won every
election. Instead, he said, the takeaway is to recognize a sweeping impact
rooted in respecting other people on an individual level and trying to help
"You don't get more out of a life than he got, right?" the younger Carter
said. "It is a incredible, full rich life with a long marriage, a wonderful
partnership with my grandmother, and the ability to see the world and interact
with the world in ways that almost nobody else has ever been able to do."