Jimmy Carter’s new milestone: Longest-lived US president

President Jimmy Carter waves to a crowd of Democrats attending a Maryland $100-a-person fundraiser for Democratic candidate for governor, Harry Hughes, left, in Baltimore, Oct. 18, 1978. At the right is the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Sam Bogley. (AP Photo/Jim Wells)
President Jimmy Carter waves to a crowd of Democrats attending a Maryland $100-a-person fundraiser for Democratic candidate for governor, Harry Hughes, left, in Baltimore, Oct. 18, 1978. At the right is the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Sam Bogley. (AP Photo/Jim Wells) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jim Wells)
File-This Sept. 12, 2018, file photo shows former President Jimmy Carter, 93, answering questions from students during his annual town hall with Emory University in Atlanta. Carter said Friday, jan. 18, 2019, that he believes President Donald Trump would benefit from a few behind-the-scenes advisers who could help improve U.S. relations with China. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
File-This Sept. 12, 2018, file photo shows former President Jimmy Carter, 93, answering questions from students during his annual town hall with Emory University in Atlanta. Carter said Friday, jan. 18, 2019, that he believes President Donald Trump would benefit from a few behind-the-scenes advisers who could help improve U.S. relations with China. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) (AP/Curtis Compton)
Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat
FILE – In this March 9, 1979 file photo, U.S. President Jimmy Carter waves to crowds in Banha, Egypt, accompanied by President Anwar Sadat during their train trip from Cairo to Alexandria. (AP Photo) (AP/Anonymous)
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2009, file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by then-President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, with former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The five living former U.S. presidents are creating the "One America Appeal" to raise money for storm recovery as Texas and Louisiana regroup from Harvey and Florida braces for Hurricane Irma. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 7, 2009, file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by then-President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, with former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
FILE – In this Dec. 31, 1977 file photo, U.S. President Jimmy Carter toasts Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran during a New Year’s Eve dinner at Niavaran Palace in Tehran, Iran. This moment came ahead of Iran’s Islamic Revolution that changed a stalwart U.S. ally into a regional adversary. Carter, a Democrat, ultimately would lose the 1980 U.S. election, held on the first anniversary of the hostage crisis, to Republican Ronald Reagan. (AP Photo, File) (AP)
Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin
FILE – In this Feb. 24, 1979 file photo, from left, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin stand at attention as the national anthems of their respective countries were played on the north lawn of the White House in Washington. The ceremony was for the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Although the moment, protagonists and locations become enshrined in history books, major summits hold no guarantee of further progress. In some cases, the summit is as good as it gets as relations remain stagnant or plummet further. (AP Photo, File) (AP/Anonymous)
President Jimmy Carter holds his wife Rosalynn's hand as she says a few words at an inaugural party in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 1977. The Carters attended seven parties at four hotels, the railroad station, a government building and an armory. (AP Photo)
President Jimmy Carter holds his wife Rosalynn’s hand as she says a few words at an inaugural party in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 1977. The Carters attended seven parties at four hotels, the railroad station, a government building and an armory. (AP Photo) (AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 1966 file photo, then Georgia State Sen. Jimmy Carter hugs his wife, Rosalynn, at his Atlanta campaign headquarters. Standing outside an Atlanta cotton mill campaigning for her husband's bid to become governor of Georgia, Rosalynn Carter came upon a stooped and weary woman heading home to care for a mentally ill daughter. The pre-dawn encounter in 1966 would help launch a crusade that's lasted to this day. As her husband's political career catapulted him to the White House, Mrs. Carter worked to bring mental health to the fore. Her advocacy has continued long after the couple left the nation's capital and established the Carter Center in Atlanta. (AP Photo/File)
FILE – In this Sept. 15, 1966 file photo, then Georgia State Sen. Jimmy Carter hugs his wife, Rosalynn, at his Atlanta campaign headquarters. Standing outside an Atlanta cotton mill campaigning for her husband’s bid to become governor of Georgia, Rosalynn Carter came upon a stooped and weary woman heading home to care for a mentally ill daughter. The pre-dawn encounter in 1966 would help launch a crusade that’s lasted to this day. As her husband’s political career catapulted him to the White House, Mrs. Carter worked to bring mental health to the fore. Her advocacy has continued long after the couple left the nation’s capital and established the Carter Center in Atlanta. (AP Photo/File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Horace Cort)
Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden
FILE – In this Feb. 20, 1978, file photo, President Jimmy Carter listens to Sen. Joseph R. Biden, D-Del., as they wait to speak at fund raising reception at Padua Academy in Wilmington, Del. Biden’s storied political career will end much the way it started nearly half a century ago: shaped by crushing personal tragedy that shook his confidence in his own ability to lead. In deciding not to run for president, Biden has turned away from months of preparations and countless hours that had put him on the verge of a third presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma, File) (AP)
President Jimmy Carter waves to the crowd while walking with his wife Rosalynn along Pennsylvania Avenue and their daughter Amy.  The Carters elected to walk the parade route from the Capitol to the White House following his inauguration in Washington, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 1977. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis)
President Jimmy Carter waves to the crowd while walking with his wife Rosalynn along Pennsylvania Avenue and their daughter Amy. The Carters elected to walk the parade route from the Capitol to the White House following his inauguration in Washington, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 1977. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis) (AP/SUZANNE VLAMIS)
Pope John Paul II stands on the balcony of the White House with  President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 1979.  (AP Photo)
Pope John Paul II stands on the balcony of the White House with President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 1979. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Jimmy Carter
FILE – In this Aug. 23, 2015 file photo, former President Jimmy Carter opens up a Bible while teaching Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown in Plains, Ga. Carter’s recent diagnosis that cancer has spread to his brain will require him to scale back his work, but Carter Center officials say their programs will continue uninterrupted. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (AP)
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President Jimmy Carter waves to a crowd of Democrats attending a Maryland $100-a-person fundraiser for Democratic candidate for governor, Harry Hughes, left, in Baltimore, Oct. 18, 1978. At the right is the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Sam Bogley. (AP Photo/Jim Wells)
File-This Sept. 12, 2018, file photo shows former President Jimmy Carter, 93, answering questions from students during his annual town hall with Emory University in Atlanta. Carter said Friday, jan. 18, 2019, that he believes President Donald Trump would benefit from a few behind-the-scenes advisers who could help improve U.S. relations with China. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2009, file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama is welcomed by then-President George W. Bush for a meeting at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, with former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The five living former U.S. presidents are creating the "One America Appeal" to raise money for storm recovery as Texas and Louisiana regroup from Harvey and Florida braces for Hurricane Irma. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin
President Jimmy Carter holds his wife Rosalynn's hand as she says a few words at an inaugural party in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 1977. The Carters attended seven parties at four hotels, the railroad station, a government building and an armory. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 1966 file photo, then Georgia State Sen. Jimmy Carter hugs his wife, Rosalynn, at his Atlanta campaign headquarters. Standing outside an Atlanta cotton mill campaigning for her husband's bid to become governor of Georgia, Rosalynn Carter came upon a stooped and weary woman heading home to care for a mentally ill daughter. The pre-dawn encounter in 1966 would help launch a crusade that's lasted to this day. As her husband's political career catapulted him to the White House, Mrs. Carter worked to bring mental health to the fore. Her advocacy has continued long after the couple left the nation's capital and established the Carter Center in Atlanta. (AP Photo/File)
Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden
President Jimmy Carter waves to the crowd while walking with his wife Rosalynn along Pennsylvania Avenue and their daughter Amy.  The Carters elected to walk the parade route from the Capitol to the White House following his inauguration in Washington, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 1977. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis)
Pope John Paul II stands on the balcony of the White House with  President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 1979.  (AP Photo)
Jimmy Carter

ATLANTA (AP) — Nearly four decades after voters unceremoniously rejected then-President Jimmy Carter’s bid for a second term, the 39th president has reached a milestone that electoral math cannot dispute: He is now the longest-living chief executive in American history.

Friday is the 172nd day beyond Carter’s 94th birthday, exceeding by one day the lifespan of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94 years, 171 days. Both men were born in 1924: Bush on June 12, Carter on Oct. 1.

It’s yet another post-presidency distinction for Carter, whose legacy since leaving office has long overshadowed both his rocky White House tenure and the remarkable political rise that led him from his family peanut farm and a state Senate seat to the governor’s mansion and his unlikely presidential victory in 1976.

The achievement also defies medical odds, coming more than three years after Carter announced he had melanoma that had spread to his liver and brain. He underwent treatment and received a clean bill of health.

“There are no special celebrations planned,” said Deanna Congileo, spokeswoman for the former president and The Carter Center, which Carter and his wife, Rosaylnn, now 91, founded in Atlanta in 1982 to focus on global human rights issues.

The center’s decades of public health advocacy, election-monitoring and conflict resolution around the world have redefined the role of former presidents, who before Carter often retired to relative obscurity.

“We at The Carter Center sure are rooting for him and grateful for his long life of service that has benefited millions of the world’s poorest people,” Congileo said.

Seemingly downplaying his political career, Carter has for years characterized the center’s work as his defining professional achievement — though, of course, having been a U.S. president is what allowed him the stature to establish the center.

“I spent four of my ninety years in the White House, and they were, of course, the pinnacle of my political life,” Carter wrote in a memoir published on his 90th birthday. “Those years, though, do not dominate my chain of memories, and there was never an orderly or planned path to get there during my early life.”

Rather, he continued, “Teaching, writing and helping The Carter Center evolve … seem to constitute the high points in my life.”

And the man who once held the U.S. nuclear codes, forged a historic Middle East peace deal at Camp David and tried to manage a hostage crisis that sealed his one-term fate has a simple answer whenever he’s asked to recount the best or most significant decision he’s ever made: “Asking Rosalynn to marry me.”

The former president and first lady still live in Plains, Georgia, a town of about 750 where they were born, raised and married 73 years ago, weeks after the future commander in chief graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy.

A devout Christian, Jimmy Carter regularly teaches Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church, drawing hundreds of visitors to Plains for each session. The Carters pose for pictures with each attendee.

Though he sometimes de-emphasizes his elected career, living so long after his presidency is allowing Carter a resurgence of sorts in Democratic politics.

Two current presidential candidates, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, have ventured to Plains to meet with the Carters. The former president has hosted Bernie Sanders, a 2016 and 2020 presidential candidate, for a panel at The Carter Center — and Carter told the audience that he voted for Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. He hosted and endorsed Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams in her unsuccessful bid for Georgia governor last year.

Georgia Democrats say they expect more presidential candidates to make a Plains pilgrimage.

As for what’s next, Carter has at least one more accomplishment on his mind, pointing often to The Carter Center’s long-running effort to eliminate Guinea worm disease, a parasitic infection attributed to poor drinking water.

There were 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in 1986, when the Carter Center began its eradication program. In 2018, there were 28 cases worldwide.

“I’m hoping that I will live longer than the last Guinea worm,” he said in a British television interview in 2016. “That’s one of my goals in life, and I think I have a good chance to succeed.”

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Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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