Beer Birthday: Jimmy Carter

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Today is the birthday of our 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter (October 1, 1924- ). He “is an American politician and author who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Carter Center.

Carter, a Democrat raised in rural Georgia, was a peanut farmer who served two terms as a Georgia State Senator, from 1963 to 1967, and one as the Governor of Georgia, from 1971 to 1975. He was elected President in 1976, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford in a relatively close election; the Electoral College margin of 57 votes was the closest at that time since 1916.”

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The White House website also has a series of presidential biographies, from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey:

Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

Jimmy Carter aspired to make Government “competent and compassionate,” responsive to the American people and their expectations. His achievements were notable, but in an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing tensions, it was impossible for his administration to meet these high expectations.

Carter, who has rarely used his full name–James Earl Carter, Jr.–was born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Peanut farming, talk of politics, and devotion to the Baptist faith were mainstays of his upbringing. Upon graduation in 1946 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Carter married Rosalynn Smith. The Carters have three sons, John William (Jack), James Earl III (Chip), Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff), and a daughter, Amy Lynn.

After seven years’ service as a naval officer, Carter returned to Plains. In 1962 he entered state politics, and eight years later he was elected Governor of Georgia. Among the new young southern governors, he attracted attention by emphasizing ecology, efficiency in government, and the removal of racial barriers.

Carter announced his candidacy for President in December 1974 and began a two-year campaign that gradually gained momentum. At the Democratic Convention, he was nominated on the first ballot. He chose Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. Carter campaigned hard against President Gerald R. Ford, debating with him three times. Carter won by 297 electoral votes to 241 for Ford.

Carter worked hard to combat the continuing economic woes of inflation and unemployment. By the end of his administration, he could claim an increase of nearly eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, measured in percentage of the gross national product. Unfortunately, inflation and interest rates were at near record highs, and efforts to reduce them caused a short recession.

Carter could point to a number of achievements in domestic affairs. He dealt with the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production. He prompted Government efficiency through civil service reform and proceeded with deregulation of the trucking and airline industries. He sought to improve the environment. His expansion of the national park system included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. To increase human and social services, he created the Department of Education, bolstered the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women, blacks, and Hispanics to Government jobs.

In foreign affairs, Carter set his own style. His championing of human rights was coldly received by the Soviet Union and some other nations. In the Middle East, through the Camp David agreement of 1978, he helped bring amity between Egypt and Israel. He succeeded in obtaining ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. Building upon the work of predecessors, he established full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and completed negotiation of the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty with the Soviet Union.

There were serious setbacks, however. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused the suspension of plans for ratification of the SALT II pact. The seizure as hostages of the U. S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran’s holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home, contributed to Carter’s defeat in 1980. Even then, he continued the difficult negotiations over the hostages. Iran finally released the 52 Americans the same day Carter left office.

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But, of course, none of that is why people who love beer will celebrate Jimmy Carter. Carter, of course signed H.R. 1337 on October 14, 1978. That was the bill that finally legalized homebrewing. And while you can argue that it was really senator Alan Cranston who deserves the lion’s share of the credit, after all he added the specific language to the bill that made homebrewing okay again, it’s generally Carter who’s best remembered for having signed the bill into law. At least outside of California, anyway, where many people know that it was Amendment 3534, drafted by Cranston, that homebrewing was decriminalized.

Still, I think it’s fair to give Carter some of the credit, and thanks him for signing the bill allowing homebrewing again into law. I’m not sure Reagan would have signed it. See also, Tom Cizauskas’ What will President Jimmy Carter be remembered for? and KegWorks’ How Jimmy Carter Sparked the Craft Beer Revolution.

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And finally, here’s Michael Jackson, in an 2004 interview, talking about the importance of Carter signing the homebrewing bill into law.

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Jimmy Carter, by Sean Marlin McKinney.

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