America's Oldest Living Ex-President Is One Year Older as Jimmy Carter Turns 96

America's Oldest Living Ex-President Is One Year Older as Jimmy Carter Turns 96

October 1, 2020

Former President Jimmy Carter turned 96 on Thursday, extending his record as the oldest living of the 44 men who have held that office.

Carter, the 39th president of the United States, served from 1977 to 1982, alongside Vice President Walter Mondale.

His eponymous humanitarian organization encouraged well-wishes for his birthday this week and his presidential library, in Atlanta, was set to host a virtual discussion of a new biography about him on Thursday night.

“Now when we have a quiet moment, like a birthday or something, we like to stay at home, just by ourselves, and enjoy a quiet day in our own house without any visitors and with minimum phone calls and emails coming in,” Carter told PEOPLE last year.

Since 2019, the former president has suffered from a series of health issues, spending time in the hospital due to falls and other medical conditions. He underwent brain surgery in November.

Though Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, have largely remained at home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the two did share a masked selfie in July, a move meant to promote wearing face masks to slow the spread of the illness.

They also participated in a video that aired at the Democratic National Convention in August.

In the pre-recorded clip — which offered an endorsement of presidential candidate Joe Biden — the Carters gave remarks while a slide show played, but they did not appear on screen.

In an interview with PEOPLE last year, President Carter's biographer Jonathan Alter called him "an enormously complex, endlessly fascinating figure in American history," adding that much of his legacy will be marked by the work he did after his time in office.

"He is by popular consensus the most successful ex-president in American history," Alter said. "He's a humanitarian who, with his wife and partner Rosalynn, devoted the last 40 years to improving the world instead of playing golf and taking big speaking fees and doing other kinds of things that other former presidents do."

A former Georgia peanut farmer, Carter has spent his time out of office taking on a number of humanitarian causes, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

In 1982, he founded the Atlanta-based Carter Center, an organization focused on human rights and the alleviation of human suffering.

In June, the former president spoke out against racial injustice amid nationwide demonstrations, saying, "As a white male of the South, I know all too well the impact of segregation and injustice to African Americans."

"People of power, privilege, and moral conscience must stand up and say 'no more' to a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy," Carter said then.

He has continued to teach Sunday school and help to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

The Carters celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary in July, breaking the record for being the longest married first couple in American history.

A spokesperson for the Carter Center said the two would spend the day celebrating Carter at their home in Plains, Georgia.

• With reporting by DIANE HERBST

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