When a president departs the White Residence for the last time, they may be leaving the grand ol’ house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but they may not be leaving behind the opulent lifestyle.
Carter, the oldest-living former president, has led a very humble existence since handing over the presidency to Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Carter and his wife Rosalynn, 95, who marked their 77th wedding anniversary this year, returned to the Plains, Georgia, house they constructed in the 1960s after serving only one term.
Bessie Lillian Carter and James Earl Carter Sr. had James Earl Carter Jr. on October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia.
Plains, a little village of around 600 inhabitants, was home to Carter’s father, a prosperous merchant and farmer. Carter was born in the Wise Sanitarium, where his mother worked as a nurse.
Carter attended the local high school from 1937 to 1941, and he aspired to join the military like his father, who served in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps during WWI.
He began his education at Georgia Southwestern College, but switched to Georgia Institute of Technology before being admitted to the Naval Academy in 1943.
He met Rosalynn through his sister Ruth while he was in the Naval Academy.
According to People, he claimed in Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas’ book What Makes a Marriage Last, “I just felt compatible with her.”
The two went on a date to see a movie, and the rest, as they say, is history!
They married shortly after Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946.
The young couple spent the next several years travelling across the country as Carter was assigned to deployments in the Atlantic or Pacific fleets.
Carter’s father grew ill and died from cancer in July 1953, just as the Navy was about to build its first nuclear-powered submarine, which he was supposed to be a part of.
Despite his reservations, Carter eventually departed the Navy with the rank of lieutenant to pursue his family’s peanut farming business.
He and Rosalynn had three children by the time they returned to Plains to start a family.
With a growing family (their fourth child was born in 1967), the Carters needed a home, so he built a ranch-style house for them in 1961.
The house, which is currently valued at $209,996 on Zillow, was excellent for the Carters before Jimmy became involved in politics, and it remained ideal for them when he resigned from politics.
After leaving the White House, the former 39th president did not rush to find a new house or sign book deals worth millions of dollars. He returned to Plains, Georgia.
He returned to his roots, according to the Washington Post, because he did not want to “capitalize monetarily on being in the White House.”
The 38th president, Gerald Ford, is claimed to have been the first to seize such possibilities, but “Carter did the opposite.”
Many of his successors and their spouses, though, have taken advantage of post-presidential popularity, which Carter accepts. It’s simply not for him.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” he said. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”
That is correct. He suffered when he returned to his peanut company. His company was $1 million in debt, and he had no choice except to sell.
So, like many others in his situation who have lived a life worth telling, he began writing. He wrote about everything from his life and work to Middle Eastern peace.
He and his wife are able to live well because to the money from his more than two dozen novels and the $217,000 annual pension.
Nonetheless, for the most part, they prefer to live modestly.
According to a 2011 Rolling Stone interview, he bought his outfits at the local Dollar General. When he travels, he is also known to fly commercial rather than private.
According to the General Services Administration’s 2019 fiscal year budget, Carter cost taxpayers $456,000, compared to $952,000 for former President George H. W. Bush.
The budget includes a pension, an office, personnel, and other expenses.
Each of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama cost taxpayers one million dollars.
On Saturday, August 04, 2018, Jimmy Carter sits next to his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, while enjoying dinner at the house of friend Jill Stuckey and being questioned by reporters in Plains, GA.
As his successors went on to join advisory boards, speak at conferences, and live their lives as celebrities, Carter continued to give back to his community in different ways, often for free.
Carter began teaching at Emory University shortly after leaving the White House, and after 37 years of service, he was granted tenure.
He was also a Sunday school teacher at Maranatha Baptist Church. He only missed class once, in 2019, when he required surgery to address a subdural hematoma.
The former president, who built his own house in 1961, has long been involved with Habitat for Humanity. He has assisted in the renovation of 4,300 houses in 14 countries throughout the years.
“I’m not being modest here, trust me. I’m not being humble. I’m being honest. He’s going to outwork you every time he comes on the job site,” Garth Brooks told Yahoo.
The Carters’ home has undergone some improvements over the years, which Rosalynn says they handled themselves because they had spent so much time building houses with Habitat for Humanity that they knew what they were doing.
But, for the most part, the inside appears to be as expected. Warm and inviting.
When Carter isn’t helping others, he’s at home relaxing or at a friend’s house enjoying a great lunch on a paper plate, no less, or going for a walk through town with Rosalynn.
We’re pleased to share this wonderful photo from the @POTUS and @FLOTUS visit to see the Carters in Plains, Ga.!— The Carter Center (@CarterCenter) May 4, 2021
Thank you President and Mrs. Biden! pic.twitter.com/QcA33iUev4
Carter returned to his roots to live out the rest of his life, despite having lived what some may call a grandiose life for four years.
“We feel at home here,” Carter said of Plains. “And the folks in town, when we need it, they take care of us.”