Struggles, Service & Smiles: The Autobiography of a Depression Era Kid

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Returning to small-town life in Plains seemed "a monumental step backward," she said later.

Struggles, Service & Smiles : The Autobiography of a Depression Era Kid

On the other hand, Carter felt restricted by the rigidity of the military and yearned to assume a path more like his father's. Carter left active duty on October 9, Earl Carter died a relatively wealthy man, having recently been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. However, between his forgiveness of debts and the division of his wealth among heirs, his son Jimmy inherited comparatively little.

For a year, Jimmy, Rosalynn, and their three sons lived in public housing in Plains; Carter is the only U. Carter was knowledgeable in scientific and technological subjects, and he set out to expand the family's peanut-growing business. The transition from Navy to agribusinessman was difficult because his first-year harvest failed due to drought; Carter was compelled to open several bank lines of credit to keep the farm afloat.

Meanwhile, he also took classes and read up on agriculture while Rosalynn learned accounting to manage the business's books. Though they barely broke even the first year, the Carters grew the business and became quite successful. Racial tension was inflamed in Plains by the U. Supreme Court 's anti-segregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

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By he was a prominent member of the community and the Baptist Church as well as chairman of the Sumter County school board, where he began to speak more loudly in favor of school integration. Rosalynn, who had an instinct for politics and organization, was instrumental to his campaign. The initial results showed Carter losing, but this was the result of fraudulent voting orchestrated by Joe Hurst, the Democratic Party chairman in Quitman County , with the aid of the Quitman County sheriff.

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The civil rights movement was well underway when Carter took office. He and his family had become staunch John F. Kennedy supporters. Beginning in , the town of Americus was the site of mass beatings and incarcerations of black protesters, [24] echoing similar unrest throughout the country. Carter remained relatively quiet on the issue at first, even as it polarized much of the county, to avoid alienating his segregationist colleagues. He did speak up on a few divisive issues, giving speeches against literacy tests and against a change to the Georgia Constitution which, he felt, implied a compulsion to practice religion.

Carter later called the assassination "the greatest blow that I had suffered since my father died. Carter was a diligent legislator who took speed-reading courses to keep up with the workload. Within two years, his connections landed him on the state Democratic Executive Committee, where he helped rewrite the state party's rules. He became chairman of the West Central Georgia Planning and Development Commission, which oversaw the disbursement of federal and state grants for projects such as historic site restoration.

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When Bo Callaway was elected to the U. House of Representatives in November , Carter immediately began planning to unseat him. The two had previously clashed over which two-year college would be expanded to a four-year college program by the state; Carter wanted it to go to his alma mater, Georgia Southwestern College , but Callaway wanted the funding to go to downtown Columbus.

Carter saw Callaway, a Republican , as a rival who represented the inherited wealth and selfishness he despised in politics. Carter was re-elected in to serve a second two-year term. Before his term ended he contributed to a bill expanding statewide education funding and getting Georgia Southwestern a four-year program. He leveraged his regional planning work, giving speeches around the district to make himself more visible to potential voters.

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The last day of the term, he announced his run for Congress. The race for Georgia's 3rd congressional district in was shaken up in mid-May when the incumbent, Bo Callaway, dropped out and decided to run for Governor of Georgia instead. Callaway had just switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in , and was a very strong candidate, despite being the first Republican to run for Governor of Georgia since State Democrats panicked over the prospect of losing the governorship they had held since Reconstruction.

Carter decided to run for governor himself. In the Democratic primary he ran against the liberal former governor Ellis Arnall and the conservative segregationist Lester Maddox. In a press conference he described his ideology as "Conservative, moderate, liberal and middle-of-the-road. I believe I am a more complicated person than that. Maddox narrowly won the runoff ballot over Arnall to the Democratic Party nomination. In the general election, Callaway went on to win a plurality of the vote, but short of a 50 percent majority, state rules empowered the Georgia House of Representatives, which had a Democratic Party majority, to elect Maddox as governor.

His attempt to rescue the race from Callaway had resulted in the unlikely election of the segregationist Maddox, which he considered an even worse outcome. Carter returned to his agriculture business and, during the next four years, carefully planned his next campaign for governor in This period was a spiritual turning point for Carter; he grew increasingly evangelical, undertaking several religious missions in other states.

Inspired by his sister Ruth and liberal theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr , he declared himself Born again , a growing movement in s America. His last child Amy was born during this time, on October 19, Governor Maddox was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a second consecutive term as governor, and thus the liberal former governor, Carl Sanders , became Carter's main opponent in the Democratic primary.

Carter ran a more modern campaign this time around, employing printed graphics and statistical analysis.


Responding to poll data, Carter leaned more conservative than before. He positioned himself as a populist , quickly going negative against Sanders for his wealth labeling him "Cufflinks Carl" and associating him with the national Democratic Party. He accused Sanders of corruption, but when pressed by the media, could come up with no evidence. While he met with black figures such as Martin Luther King Sr. He implied support or dislike of private schools, depending on the audience. The appeal to racism became more blatant over time; Carter's senior campaign aides handed out a photograph of his opponent Sanders celebrating with black basketball players.

That September, Carter came ahead of Sanders in the first ballot by 49 to 38 percent, leading to a runoff. The subsequent campaign grew even more bitter; despite his early support for civil rights, Carter's campaign criticized Sanders for supporting Martin Luther King Jr. Carter won the runoff election with 60 percent of the vote—winning 7 percent of the black vote—and went on to win the general election easily over the Republican Hal Suit , a local news anchor.

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Once he was elected, Carter changed his tone, and began to speak against Georgia's racist politics. Leroy Johnson , a black state Senator, voiced his support for Carter, saying, "I understand why he ran that kind of ultra-conservative campaign. I don't believe you can win this state without being a racist.

Carter was sworn in as the 76th Governor of Georgia on January 12, He declared in his inaugural speech that "the time of 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 for an education, a job or simple justice. The many segregationists who had supported Carter during the race felt betrayed. Time magazine ran a story on the progressive " New South " governors elected that year in a May issue, featuring a cover illustration of Carter.

Lester Maddox , Carter's predecessor as governor, became lieutenant governor.

- Struggles, Service & Smiles: The Autobiography Of A Depression Era Kid

Carter had endorsed Maddox, although the two did not campaign as a ticket. The two found little common ground during their four years of service, often publicly feuding. Gambrell , state Democratic Party chair, to fill Russell's unexpired term in the Senate [41] a week after Russell's death on February 1. Carter was reluctant to engage in back-slapping and political favors, and the legislature found him frustrating to work with.

Therefore, he negotiated a bill allowing him to propose executive restructuring and to force a vote on it. He implemented zero-based budgeting within state departments and added a Judicial Selection Commission to verify the credentials of judges appointed by the governor. But after two weeks of negotiations, it was passed at midnight on the last day of the session. In an April 3, televised appearance, Carter was asked if he was in favor of a requirement that candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Georgia would have to run on the same ticket.

He replied, "I've never really thought we needed a lieutenant governor in Georgia. The lieutenant governor is part of the executive branch of government and I've always felt — ever since I was in the state Senate — that the executive branches should be separate. On July 8, , during an appearance in Columbus, Georgia , Carter stated his intent to establish a Georgia Human Rights Council that would work toward solving issues within the state ahead of any potential violence.

On January 13, , Carter requested the state legislature provide funding for an Early Childhood Development Program along with prison reform programs and 48 million in pay taxes for nearly all state employees. On March 1, , Carter stated a possible usage of a special session of the General Assembly could take place in the event that the Justice Department opted to turn down any reapportionment plans by either the House or Senate.

Civil rights were a heartfelt priority for Carter. He expanded the number of black state employees, judges, and board members. He hired Rita Jackson Samuels, a black woman, to advise him on potential appointments. During a televised joint appearance with Governor of Florida Reubin Askew on January 31, , Carter stated he favored a constitutional amendment to ban busing for the purpose of expediting integration in schools.

Supreme Court threw out Georgia's death penalty statute in Furman v. Georgia , Carter signed a revised death-penalty statute which addressed the court's objections, thus re-introducing the practice in the state. Carter later regretted endorsing the death penalty, saying, "I didn't see the injustice of it as I do now.