Billy Carter

William Alton Carter (March 29, 1937 – September 25, 1988)[1] was an American farmer, businessman, brewer, and politician. The younger brother of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, he promoted Billy Beer and was a candidate for mayor of Plains, Georgia.

Billy Carter
Jimmy and Billy Carter trimmed.jpg
Carter (right) with brother Jimmy in 1979
William Alton Carter

(1937-03-29)March 29, 1937
DiedSeptember 25, 1988(1988-09-25) (aged 51)
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
Alma materEmory University
OccupationFarmer, businessman, politician
Sybil Spires
(m. 1955)

Early yearsEdit

Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, to James Earl Carter Sr. and Lillian Gordy Carter. He was named after his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather, William Archibald Carter Jr. and William Carter Sr., respectively. He attended Emory University in Atlanta but did not complete a degree. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps, then returned to Plains to work with his brother in the family business of growing peanuts. In 1955, at the age of 18, he married Sybil Spires (b. 1939), also of Plains. They were the parents of six children: Kim, Jana, William "Buddy" Carter IV, Marle, Mandy, and Earl, who was 12 years old when his father died. His siblings were Jimmy Carter, Gloria Carter Spann, and Ruth Carter Stapleton.

1970s and laterEdit

In 1972, Billy Carter purchased a gas and service station in Plains. He owned and operated it for most of the decade.[2]

Carter ran for mayor of Plains in 1976, but lost the election, 97 to 71 votes.[3]

In the 1970s Billy Carter was the official spokesperson for Peanut Lolita liqueur while his brother, Jimmy Carter held presidential office.[4]

In 1977, he endorsed Billy Beer, introduced by the Falls City Brewing Company, who wished to capitalize upon his colorful image as a beer-drinking Southern good ol' boy that developed in the press when his brother ran for president. Billy Carter's name was occasionally used as a gag answer for a Washington, D.C., trouble-maker on 1970s episodes of Match Game. He was known for his outlandish public behavior; he once urinated on an airport runway in full view of the press and dignitaries.[5] He later became sober, and reportedly extended support to other addicts in their own recovery.[6]

Relationship with LibyaEdit

In late 1978 and early 1979, Billy Carter visited Libya three times with a contingent from Georgia. He eventually registered as a foreign agent of the Libyan government and received a $220,000 loan. (Edwin P. Wilson claimed he had seen a telegram showing that Libya paid Billy Carter $2 million.[7]) This led to a Senate hearing on alleged influence peddling which the press named Billygate.[8] A Senate sub-committee was called To Investigate Activities of Individuals Representing Interests of Foreign Governments (Billy Carter—Libya Investigation). On August 4, 1980, President Jimmy Carter wrote: "I am deeply concerned that Billy has received funds from Libya and that he may be under obligation to Libya. These facts will govern my relationship with Billy as long as I am president. Billy has had no influence on U.S. policy or actions concerning Libya in the past, and he will have no influence in the future."[9]


Carter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the fall of 1987 and received unsuccessful treatments for the disease. He died in Plains the following year at the age of 51.

His death came five years after the death of his sister Ruth Carter Stapleton, who also died of pancreatic cancer at age 54.[10] Their father, James Earl Carter Sr., also died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 58.

In 1999, Carter's son William "Buddy" Carter IV published a biography of his father titled Billy Carter: A Journey Through the Shadows (ISBN 1-56352-553-4).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Billy Carter". Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  2. ^ Billy Carter's Station
  3. ^ Ayres, Drummond (December 7, 1976). "Billy Carter Loses". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  4. ^ Watson, Robert P. (2012). Life in the White House: A Social History of the First Family and the President's House. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0791485071. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  5. ^ "Billy Carter Curbs Tongue", Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 15, 1979
  6. ^ "O.C. Writer Helps Tell Billy Carter Odyssey". Los Angeles Times. January 27, 1990. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  7. ^ Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America's Private Intelligence Network (Carroll and Graf, 2005), p. 162.
  8. ^ Sabato, Larry (July 21, 1998). "Billygate – 1980". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  9. ^ Trento, Prelude to Terror, p. 164. Trento asserts that Libya's involvement with Billy Carter was instigated by Israeli intelligence in order "to compromise the president", who had ended Israel's "special status inside the CIA". Trento, 160, 157.
  10. ^ Hershey Jr., Robert D. (September 26, 1988). "Billy Carter Dies of Cancer at 51. Troubled Brother of a President". The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2008. Billy Carter, the irrepressible gas station proprietor and farmer who vaulted to national celebrity in his brother Jimmy's successful campaign for President in 1976, died of cancer of the pancreas yesterday at his home in Plains, Georgia. He was 51 years old.

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