Jimmy Carter’s name has become synonymous with Habitat for Humanity, but a Mississippi State professor emeritus and biographer of the former president says the agribusinessman from Plains, Georgia, devoted more of his post-White House life to championing peace than building houses.

E. Stanly Godbold Jr., who retired from the university after 26 years in the classroom, is a go-to expert for all things related to the 39th president and his wife, Rosalynn. Almost 30 years of researching original source materials and direct interviews with the Carters and those close to them has yielded two books from Godbold: 2010’s “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: The Georgia Years, 1924-1974” and 2022’s “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: Power and Human Rights, 1975-2020.”

Carter and his wife both volunteered their time to various Habitat projects in the years following his departure from office in 1981, attracting so much publicity that their service eventually morphed into the annual, international Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, fueled by hundreds of volunteers who worked alongside them.

To this day, Godbold said, many people erroneously believe Carter founded Habitat, when he and Rosalynn actually spent one week each year at worksites.

“The other 51 weeks in a year, they did a lot of other things,” Godbold said. “The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, is a thriving organization that promotes peace, democracy and health across the world. It has mediated international disputes, almost wiped-out diseases on two continents, bolstered agricultural production for the needy and recently began promoting free and fair elections in the U.S. In addition to the Carter Center, Rosalynn founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers in Americus, Georgia.

“Since so much time has passed since Carter was elected president, what we’ve learned from looking at the primary evidence is that Carter has earned the legacy of peace and human rights—that’s what he gave to the world,” he added. “Whether or not he lusted in his heart or the rabbit was a killer, most of the things he did were very positive and gave us a much better world. The most important thing they did was keep us out of war. Our country and the world owe them respect and gratitude for what they did.”

Godbold’s books are published by the Oxford University Press and available for purchase through it, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major retailers.

By Carl Smith, Photo by Megan Bean