Jimmy Carter turns 99 as tributes pour in for former US president

Has garnered worldwide admiration for his post-presidency humanitarian work

Former US president Jimmy Carter, pictured in 2016. AP
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Former US president Jimmy Carter turned 99 on Sunday, celebrating his birthday with his wife, Rosalynn, and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Plains, Georgia.

Mr Carter, a Democrat who served as US president from January 1977 to January 1981, is in hospice care after deciding in February to decline additional medical intervention. He is the longest-lived former president in US history.

Tributes and birthday wishes for the former president poured in from across America, including from President Joe Biden, who recorded a message from the Oval Office while wearing a blue Jimmy Carter 99 baseball cap.

“I consider it a great honour to know you and to have worked with you, and I just hope I can be one half the president you've been,” Mr Biden said. “God love you. Happy birthday, pal.”

The White House put up a wooden cake display on its north lawn and the Carter library in Georgia hosting a party for the public.

In Atlanta on Saturday, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum hosted a celebration that it said would feature cake, games, trivia and a food truck. The party was held a day early ahead of a possible government shutdown that could have started on Sunday but was averted at the last minute.

Nobel Peace Prize

Mr Carter, who was born on October 1, 1924, has lived longer after leaving office than any former president. He has garnered worldwide admiration for his post-presidency humanitarian work and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

As president, Mr Carter helped facilitate peace between Israel and Egypt while the Iran crisis changed the complexion of the region. Outside the White House, Mr Carter has withstood many attacks on his character to defend Palestinian rights.

Mr Carter has faced health challenges in recent years, including melanoma that spread to his liver and brain, but he has continued to show resilience, even after his decision to start at-home hospice care back in February.

Jimmy Carter's green energy vision and White House solar panel installation - in pictures

He and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, who has dementia, took an outing a week ago to attend the annual peanut festival in their hometown of Plains.

Mr Carter’s term often has been criticised because of inflation, global fuel shortages and the holding of American hostages in Iran, a confluence that led to Republican Ronald Reagan’s landslide win in 1980.

But Mr Carter’s focus on diplomacy and his emphasis on the environment before the climate crisis was widely acknowledged and his focus on efficient government – his presidency added little to the national debt – have seen historians re-evaluate his presidency in a far more favourable light.

It is perhaps his four decades of tireless post-presidency work that define Mr Carter's legacy the most. The Carter Centre has fought disease, run health programmes and monitored elections around the world, including now in the US amid threats to democracy domestically.

In 2002, Mr Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.

Updated: October 01, 2023, 3:10 PM