Billy Carter

Red neck, white socks, blue ribbon beer..

I am of course referring to the Late William Alton Carter, brother of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carter ran for president in 1976 and served from 1977 to 1981. This is not going to be political commentary, just about Billy.

It seems to us from Canada, that Jimmy Carter bust onto the political scene sometime in 1976. This would still be during the primary campaigns. Suddenly, Billy seemed to become more popular than his brother. Seems everybody had to visit their home town of Plains, Georgia. At the time, Billy ran a service station and was also involved in the family business, based on peanut farming. Billy had become very popular, sort of a good ole boy, redneck, country bumpkin who was regularly featured in the media and became a celebrity all his own. Over the years he endorsed products, including a brand of beer with his name on the label, and seemed to be at car shows, car races, truck rodeos all over the country. It seemed like Plains, G.A. had become the centre of the pop culture universe. This was the 70's remember. Truckin, car chase movies, C.B. radios, etc. etc. etc.

As well known as Billy had become, so did a negative persona of him. He was quite often quoted in the media not sounding too smart, and portrayed as quite ignorant and uneducated. Billy had also developed a problem with too much drinking and it was known that he would appear in public intoxicated. Billy had become somewhat of an embarassment to his brother. Billy was also approached by some people from Libya, with the hope of Billy being able to help them with business ventures in the U.S. I do not recall at that time if Libya was considered good or bad. Billy had also accepted money from the Libyans that he needed to settle a tax debt.
The ensuing bad press did not bear well on his brother who lost the presidential election in 1980.

I never knew Billy, but I do not recall every reading or hearing anything flattering about him in the press. I suspect once he was noticed due to his brother's political ambition he was portrayed in a certain light. I now know how popular media tends to misrepresent or at least manipulate facts to keep their readers entertained. I suspect this is what happened with Billy. I doubt he was media saavy. I do not know if his brother's political handlers ever tried to handle family members. But, Billy may have seen an oportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity in this sudden fame. And who wouldn't?? Had his brother lost in the primaries, Billy, Jimmy, and Plains, G.A. would be as quickly forgotten as the telephone number for the campaign headquarters. Why not take advantage of it while he could??

It is my understanding that Billy was making more money than his brother who was president. He may have felt obligated to don the mask of the court jester, since this seems to be what the public and media wanted. He may have realised this too late and realized his public persona was a charicature of him.

The only time I ever read anything positive about the man was most unfortunately his obituary in 1989. It seems the man was not quite the person we all thought he was. He had beaten alcoholism, and was a successful business man in his later years.

Is there anybody else who remembers Billy?? His former gas station has now been turned into a museum. Has anybody read the biography by his son? Let me know.
Older1962 Older1962
51-55, M
Jan 14, 2013