In one of his last public acts, Mr. Carter filed a brief last year supporting an appeal by conservation groups seeking to overturn a court decision permitting a gravel road to be built through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. He argued that the construction would undercut the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which he had signed into law. He was said to be working on that issue as recently as last month.
“My name is Jimmy Carter,” he wrote in that brief. “In my lifetime, I have been a farmer, a naval officer, a Sunday school teacher, an outdoorsman, a democracy activist, a builder, governor of Georgia and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And from 1977 to 1981, I had the privilege of serving as the 39th president of the United States.”
Mr. Carter was a political sensation in his day, a new-generation Democrat who after a single term as governor of Georgia shocked the political world by beating a host of better-known rivals to capture his party’s presidential nomination in 1976, then ousting the incumbent Republican president, Gerald R. Ford, in the fall.
Over the course of four years in office, he sought to restore trust in government following the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, ushering in reforms that were meant to transform politics. He negotiated the landmark Camp David accords making peace between Israel and Egypt, an agreement that remains the foundation of Middle East relations.
But a sour economy and a 444-day hostage crisis in Iran in which 52 American diplomats were held captive undercut his public support, and he lost his bid for re-election to former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California in 1980.
He spent his post-presidency, however, on a series of philanthropic causes around the world, like building houses for the poor, combating Guinea worm, promoting human rights in places of repression, monitoring elections and seeking to end conflicts. His work as a former president in many ways came to eclipse his time in the White House, eventually earning him the Nobel Peace Prize and rehabilitating his image in the eyes of many Americans.
Alan Blinder contributed reporting from Atlanta.