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Then and now: World transformed over Jimmy Carter's 94 years

FILE- In this March 27, 2018 file photo, former President Jimmy Carter speaks during a funeral service for former and former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, in Atlanta. Carter is now the longest-living president in American history. The 39th president on Friday, March 19, 2019, reached the age of 94 years, 172 days - one day beyond the lifespan of George H.W. Bush, who died in November. (Associated Press)
Published Mar. 22

ATLANTA — Jimmy Carter cemented a new milestone Friday, becoming the longest-lived of the 44 men who have ascended to the American presidency.

He surpasses George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30, 2018 — 171 days after he reached age 94.

Here are some notable markers for Carter, the U.S. and the world during the 94 years and 172 days (34,505 days) since the 39th president was born on Oct. 1, 1924:


Carter has seen the U.S. population nearly triple. The U.S. has about 329 million residents now; there were about 114 million in 1924 and 220 million when Carter took office in 1977. The world population has roughly quadrupled, from about 1.9 billion to 7.6 billion. It already had more than doubled to 4.36 billion by the time Carter became president.

That boom has not reached Plains, Georgia, where Carter and wife Rosalynn, now 91, were born and still live. The tiny south Georgia town comprised fewer than 500 in the 1920s and has 750 or so today, with much of the local economy revolving around its most famous residents.

When James Earl Carter Jr. was born, life expectancy for American males was 58.


There was no Amazon Prime in 1924, but you could order a build-it-yourself house from a catalogue. Sears Roebuck Gladstone's three-bedroom model went for $2,025 — slightly less than the average worker's annual income.

Walmart didn't exist, but locally owned general stores served the same purpose. Ballpark prices: loaf of bread, 9 cents; gallon of milk, 54 cents; gallon of gas, 11 cents. The stock market was just beginning a rapid rise that led to the 1929 crash.

Inflation and spiking gas prices, incidentally, helped drive Carter from office, though the average gallon in 1980, Carter's last full year, was $2.66 when adjusted for inflation. That's just six cents more than AAA's national average Thursday.


Prohibition had been in effect four years when Carter was born and wouldn't be lifted until he was 9 years old. The Carters have never been prodigious drinkers, famously serving only wine at state dinners.

Carter's younger brother Billy, who owned a Plains gas station and died in 1988, had different tastes, even marketing his own brand, Billy Beer, once Carter became president. News sources at the time reported that the presidential sibling snagged a $50,000 annual licensing fee from one brewer. That would be about $215,000 today, measured by consumer price index inflation. The president's annual salary at the time was $200,000.

The average retail for a six-pack of beer during Jimmy Carter's first year in office was $2.65. It's about $9 today. You can snag cans of Billy Beer on eBay for about $5 each, but antique collectors say they're actually worth a fraction of that.


President Donald Trump doesn't take too kindly to Alec Baldwin's rendition of him on NBC's sketch comedy show. Carter and SNL took the national stage at the same time, with the inaugural season coming in 1975-76 as Carter campaigned for the Democratic nomination. In the second season, the new president was parodied by Dan Aykroyd.


The Times Square debt clock didn't debut until Carter was in his early 60s and out of the White House. But for those counting the $22 trillion debt, Carter doesn't merit much mention, even considering he served only one term.

His cumulative debt: Less than $300 billion, leaving the total debt below $1 trillion.


Carter is the only graduate of the United States Naval Academy to become commander in chief. He's also the only military academy graduate president who wasn't a wartime commander: West Point alumni Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower led U.S. military efforts in the Civil War and World War II, respectively.

The first year the Naval Academy included women was 1976, when Carter was elected. Last November, a month after Carter reached 94, New Jersey's Mikie Sherrill (Class of '94) and Virginia's Elaine Loria (Class of '97) became the first women Naval Academy graduates elected to Congress.


Carter has lived through a third of all U.S. presidencies: nine before he was president, six since. The man Carter beat —Gerald Ford — and the man who defeated him — Ronald Reagan — also lived into their 90s. Bush and John Adams are the only others who have done so.

Carter's favorite president? Not the one he sees in the mirror. It's Harry Truman. He lived to 88.


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