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Jimmy Carter becomes 1st living ex-president with official WH Christmas ornament

WASHINGTON — Former President Jimmy Carter has another distinction to his name.

The 99-year-old is the first of the U.S. presidents to be honored with an official White House Christmas ornament while still living. The ornament was unveiled Wednesday and is the latest in an annual series that the nonprofit White House Historical Association began issuing in 1981, the year Carter left office.

Carter’s ornament is shaped like an anchor in a nod to his Navy service. Other aspects of the former Georgia peanut farmer’s four-year term are represented by doves, a globe, a submarine and peanuts. The Democrat was elected in 1976 and denied a second term in 1980.

Stewart McLaurin, president of the historical association, said the honor marks “the first time in the history of our ornament program that we’ve been able to feature a living president.”

The ornament series features a different president every year in their order of service.

Carter, who is 39th on the list, is the only president to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, McLaurin said. Carter married his wife, Rosalynn, after graduating in 1946, and went on to serve in the Navy for seven years before he returned to his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

The rear of the ornament features an image of the USS Jimmy Carter, the last of the Seawolf class of nuclear submarines that were built for the Navy. Carter is the only president to have a nuclear submarine named for him, McLaurin said.

A view of the north side of the White House on the front of the ornament features doves, symbolizing Carter’s presidential peacemaking efforts. Carter helped broker the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978.

A globe on the back of the ornament speaks to Carter’s commitment to the environment and his efforts as president and as a private citizen to secure peace around the world. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Peanuts and their blossoms adorn the bottom of the ornament, serving as a reminder of his years as a peanut farmer and businessman in Plains.

Carter is in hospice care at his home. After a series of short hospital stays, Carter announced early in 2023 that he had decided to give up medical intervention and spend the rest of his time at home with his family while receiving end-of-life care.

Rosalynn Carter died in November, about six months after the family disclosed that she had been diagnosed with dementia.

Carter is the oldest living former president. He and his wife were married for more than 77 years, the longest marriage in U.S. presidential history.

The White House Historical Association was created in 1961 by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to help preserve the interior of the White House and educate the public. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that receives no government funding. It raises money mostly through private donations and sales of retail merchandise, including the annual Christmas ornament.

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