Jimmy Carter, more than a year into hospice care, reaches another milestone

ByAdam Carlson ABCNews logo
Friday, March 29, 2024

Jimmy Carter is a man of many milestones -- and the list keeps growing.

Late last week, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian marked another year as the longest lived ex-commander in chief, a record he has held since March 2019.

Having begun hospice care in February 2023, he celebrated his 99th birthday in October, surprising even his loved ones, grandson Jason Carter has said.

"It's a true blessing for all of us to have had this much time with him," Jason Carter told ABC News in the fall.

"I think his time in the private sector and the work that he did at The Carter Center, really spending his life among the most marginalized and poorest people in the world and believing in their power to change their own lives and in the power of human rights for them and democracy for them, will be the biggest part of his legacy," the younger Carter, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate, told ABC News.

Jimmy Carter's year in hospice was also unexpected, his grandson has said.

"We thought he had a matter of days," Jason Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution when the former president made it to one year receiving such care.

For decades, Jimmy Carter's love for former first lady Rosalynn Carter -- married from 1946 until her death in November -- was one of the things that kept him going, Jason Carter previously told ABC News.

Jimmy Carter's Christian faith, too, was a powerful force, his grandson said: "This faith story that he has lived out is so fundamental to who he is."

Jason Carter echoed that when speaking with the Journal-Constitution: "He is living this part of his life as part of that same faith journey that he's been on for his whole life. And we're all just there along for the ride."

Only in the last year did Jimmy Carter truly withdraw from public life after years and years of service, including a military career, time as as politician and then as a globe-trotting philanthropist whose currency was his own time and energy.

When he won a Nobel in 2002, the committee cited "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."

At the time, Jimmy Carter was 78 and far from retiring, despite the challenges ahead, including increasingly fragile health.

"It's hard to live until you're 95 years old," he said in a People magazine interview in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2019, as he and his wife were helping build some of the 4,000-plus homes they worked on with Habitat for Humanity.

"One of the things Jesus taught was: If you have any talents, try to utilize them for the benefit of others," Jimmy Carter said then. Referring to his wife by a favored nickname, he added: "That's what Rosa and I have both tried to do."

ABC News' Janice McDonald contributed to this report.

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