Stories About the Presidential Children by the Grateful American Foundation™ Written by Ed Lengel

Jimmy Carter’s Children

President Jimmy Carter

James Earl Carter, Jr., the 39th President of the United States, was born in a small Georgia town called Plains, on October 1, 1924. After attending the U.S. Naval Academy during World War II, he met and married Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, also a native of Plains. After his graduation, they married July 7, 1946, in the Plains Methodist Church. He then served in the U.S. Navy in the submarine service; he retired from active duty in 1953, but stayed in the Navy Reserve until 1961.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on their wedding day in 1946

After working several years in his family’s peanut farming business, Jimmy Carter entered Georgia politics in 1962; he ran successfully as a Democrat in the state senate, but was defeated in the gubernatorial race four years later. He was victorious in 1970. As governor, he was known for his deep religious faith and support of Civil Rights.

President Carter at a nationally televised news conference in 1980

In 1976 he defeated Republican Gerald Ford in the presidential election, and served one term, from 1977-1981. His idealistic focus on domestic issues such as clean air and renewable energy was interrupted by economic problems and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. He was beaten in 1980, but in his post-White House years, Jimmy Carter has remained very much in the public eye through his devotion—along with his family—to international peace and human rights.

Through all these events, the Carters raised three sons and one daughter, who in turn have expanded the family with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

John William Carter

John William Carter: Born at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, on July 3, 1947, Jack Carter lived in Plains while his parents worked their peanut farm, and his father got into politics. Jack attended college at Emory University, Georgia Southwestern, and Georgia Tech, before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1968. During the Vietnam War he served on a salvage ship. After his service ended, Jack returned to Georgia Tech, earned a degree in nuclear physics, married Juliette Langford in 1971—the couple would have two children—went to law school at the University of Georgia, and earned his J.D. in 1975.

He began legal practice in Calhoun, Georgia, and he assisted with his father’s 1976 presidential campaign. He remained in Calhoun, working in law and business, until his father departed the White House in 1981. He then moved to Chicago, worked with Citibank, Tabor Commodities, and the Chicago Board of Trade. After divorcing, remarrying, and conducting business in Bermuda, he moved to Nevada, and ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2006. Regarded as “low-key, charming and smart,” Jack Carter branded himself a “pragmatist,” and followed his father’s liberal approach to social policy. This and his political inexperience worked against him in the election, in which he was defeated.[1]

James Earl “Chip” Carter III

James Earl “Chip” Carter III: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 12, 1950, Chip Carter grew up in Plains; he also worked on the family peanut farm. He later remembered this as an idyllic life, as his father took his boys hunting and fishing, sharing his love of the outdoors, and raising pointer dogs. “He knows the name of every tree, every weed,” Chip remembered. “We would talk about nature. He’s very conversant about the stars.” Yet he also remembered Jimmy as a “strict father” who demanded, among other things, good grades, and took away television rights when school performance fell short. “I spent fourth through seventh grades without watching television,” Chip joked. More active in politics at an early age than his older brother, and a resident of the gubernatorial mansion in Atlanta in 1972, he campaigned actively for George McGovern’s presidential campaign. He also supported his father’s political career, while attending college at Georgia Tech. He would also serve on the Plains City Council and the Democratic National Committee.[2]

On June 23, 1973, Chip Carter married Caron Griffin, an intern at the state Capitol, who was also attending Georgia Tech. For a time, the couple lived with his parents at the White House, but in 1977, their “storybook romance” ended. They divorced in 1980. Only much later, however, did country music legend Willie Nelson report that he had smoked marijuana with Chip Carter on the White House roof. Remaining active in support of national Democratic Party politics, Chip subsequently moved to Decatur, Georgia.[3]

Donnel Jeffrey Carter

Donnel Jeffrey Carter: Born on August 18, 1952, in New London, Connecticut, Jeff Carter shared his brothers’ happy childhood on the family peanut farm. Moving to the Washington, D.C., area, he earned a degree in geography with honors from George Washington University, and married in 1975. Later, he too, was actively involved in his father’s presidential campaign, but at times, he was controversial; for example, he was forced to apologize to evangelist Billy Graham for criticizing him on the campaign trail. Eventually, he founded Computer Mapping Consultants, a company which contracted with the World Bank, and moved with his wife and three children to the Atlanta area.[4]

 

 

Amy Lynn Carter

Amy Lynn Carter: Much younger than her older brothers, she was born on October 19, 1967, in Plains. Unlike them, Amy–during her father’s political career–was often in the national spotlight. Her nanny, an African American woman named Mary Prince, had been falsely accused and convicted of murder, albeit released and later pardoned. As a result, Jimmy Carter had to become Price’s parole officer so she could take care of Amy in the White House.

Public scrutiny was a serious problem for Amy Carter, because the media refused to provide her space to live as a normal girl, enjoy slumber parties, or her tree house–in privacy. Some reporters criticized her for reading a book during a state visit, as if that were disrespectful; one columnist declared that “she was so ugly she was cute, sort of like an awkward beagle puppy.” Even other children could hurt as they praised, such as two young “reporters” in 1976, when they wrote after interviewing her: “She was really nice. She was quiet, and she seemed bright. Some people say that since she is shy and quiet and sort of reserved that she is dumb or something like that, but that is not true, she is very bright. She’s just quiet and sort of inward and self-contained and that’s why she didn’t talk much.” Her Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, helped soften her image.[5]

During the 1980 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter quoted his daughter in support of restricting nuclear weapons, which pointed to her future involvement in political activism. During the 1980s and 1990s she participated in numerous protests, including one in 1986 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in which she and others were arrested for their conduct while protesting CIA recruitment. Having attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, she attended Brown University for a time before receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Memphis College of Art, and Tulane University. She married in 1996 and moved to Atlanta after having collaborated with her father on a children’s book, The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer.

 

[1] Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct. 5, 2005.
[2] New Georgia Encyclopedia (https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/carter-family); other sources give Chip Carter’s birthplace as Plains. Atlanta Constitution, May 27, 1972; Dec. 12, 14, 1975; Dec. 8, 2002.
[3] Washington Post, Aug. 14, 1977; GQ, Aug. 31, 2015 (https://www.gq.com/story/willie-nelson-reserve-marijuana).
[4] Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 7, 1976.
[5] Atlanta Constitution, April 22, 1987, Nov. 21, 1976.