With the heartbreaking news that former President Jimmy Carter has, after a string of hospital visits decided to decline further treatment and enter Home Hospice Care I’m afraid something good and positive will be overlooked. As most people know in 2020 Congress authorized the renaming of public buildings/places named for Confederate leaders. Among those buildings was the Engineering Building at the Unites States Naval Academy. It was built and named in the early 1900s and became known as Maury Hall. Maury’s claim to fame and I suppose the reason he was honored (as part of “in your face” crap from racists of the era) was his nickname as “Pathfinder of the seas.” Alas, Maury chose to resign his commission and join the CONFEDERATE Navy. Yes, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis weren’t the only service academy grads to turn traitor.
However, it was announced Maury Hall will be renamed Carter Hall to honor former President Jimmy Carter, the only USNA graduate to become President and Commander-In-Chief. (FYI, West Point has two graduates who became President – Grant and Eisenhower who long ago had buildings there named for them)
The Naval Academy honoring it’s only graduate to become President is long overdue. I’ll get to that in a moment. But reading about it early this afternoon made this ole jarhead feel pretty damned good. I’ve often said that I proud that the very first vote I cast was for James Earl Carter. Pretty cool. At least for me. But it’s now official, and I think pretty appropriate that it’s the Engineering Building that will bear Carter’s name. (For any conservatives on their fainting couches the estimated cost will be 12k according the the Academy so suck it!)
I said I’d explain why Carter is being honored and should have been long ago. As a President and one of less than a handful of Academy grads (Army, Navy & Air Force) you’d have thought simply being a Naval Academy grad would have been enough for the folks at Annapolis to look at their main rival (West Point) and do what West Point had long ago done – slap Carter’s name on a building and say “Lookie here Army! But Carter wasn’t just another Annapolis grad.
He did his first couple of years on surface ships then switched to submarines, itself a particularly demanding duty and much more so back then. When then Capt. Hyman Rickover convinced the powers-that-be that nuclear propulsion for Naval vessels was feasible a command was formed to make it a reality. Rickover had complete authority to staff his unit and he was a picky and demanding boss. Among those who made the cut was James Earl “Jimmy Carter” and Carter would write later that after his parents no one had more influence on his life than Rickover.
So yes, Carter played a significant role in creating the nuclear Navy. We’d led the world in Naval power ever since and Carter’s talent and skill as an engineer is part of the reason why. However, Carter was just an “egghead.” When his father died he was slated to become the Engineering Officer on the second of the then brand new Seawolf submarines! But family and the family business back in Georgia caused Carter to resign his Commission and return home.
It should also be noted that when the Chalk River incident happened Carter was one of those nuclear engineers tapped to go into the reactor area and mitigate the disaster. So intense was the radiation they could only spend less than two minutes inside at a time, and all who took part in that dangerous, critical task did so knowing they might well have lifelong effects from radiation exposure.
I’d also like to note something else. Reagan claimed credit for much that Carter did and worse got away (and has continued to do so) with it. When inflation spiraled out of control in the 1970s (the seeds of which were planted by Nixon, then exacerbated by OPEC) it was Jimmy Carter who put Paul Volcker at the head of the Federal Reserve to hammer inflation back down. Reagan got all the credit, but it was Carter who selected Volcker and set him to work – not Reagan. With the Iran hostages again Reagan took ALL the credit for their release but it was Carter who got them out, first by immediately freezing Iranian assets and then convincing other governments to do the same. It was Carter and his team that worked quietly to make Iran cry “uncle!” and release our people – and Reagan who pissed in the soup during the transition to make sure the release was delayed. Until right after HE had been sworn in!
But, for the purposes of this article my time in the Corps was during Reagan’s tenure and he and his SecNav John Lehman kept hyping a “500 ship Navy” as our Navy started getting a much needed upgrade. Except the whole freaking thing was Carter’s idea, and set in motion by none other than Naval Academy graduate President Jimmy Carter! (For the record we never got close to 500, then or since)
The fact is, Carter was more than a typical Naval Academy grad even before becoming President. Renaming a building that had been honoring a TRAITOR for an actual distinguished and in literally the highest possible manner for Jimmy Carter is great news. I was thinking it would be unlikely given his health in recent years that Carter would be able to attend any ceremony at his alma mater, except perhaps via video. Now even that seems like it won’t happen.
I’m filled with sadness at the thought we’ll be saying goodbye to Jimmy Carter soon. But I’m grateful for two things. First, he will be touched (and also given the kind of person he is humbled) over this latest honor. The second is that we will be able to celebrate his life properly. Trump isn’t President and though I’m sure Trump will do all he can to sh*t all over things, if you think Trump took a dump on John McCain’s funeral as President he’d have been much worse for Carters!
But, for now let’s be thankful that near the end this most extraordinary man and public servant was granted one last honor. By an institution that shaped him.
If I still lived in the DC area or even up in the eastern panhandle of WV I’d drag my broken down old butt over to Annapolis to be there when the formal dedication ceremony happens.
We will lose a great man, a very great man, when President Carter passes.
History already shows he’s the finest former President this country has ever had. I say he was actually a much better one than he’s ever been given credit for being. Some of the reasons why I noted in the article. But there are other examples. Pushing the issue of human rights front and center for example. And he had not just a vision but a plan to move us toward energy independence and development of renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. For those of us alive and remember the oil/gas price shocks due to the two embargos OPEC inflicted on the world that was attention getting. It sounded great to many of us but many thought it was pie-in-the-sky thinking. And the oil companies of course fought it tooth and nail. It’s worth remembering that “official” Washington including the bulk of the Democratic Party at the time didn’t really accept Carter. At best fellow Democrats in DC were cool to much of what he sought. But imagine what the country and world would look like if his own Party had fully supported him while he was President. It would be in a helluva lot better shape than it is now.
Carter, a visionary, put solar panels on the WH. Reagan, a oil corporation shill, took them down.
Jimmy was a great man and a true man of the people. Along with the late, great Harry Chapin he helped organize a tremendous program to help feed the hungry all over the world. Chapin’s wife Sandy has kept it running to this day. God Bless you, Jimmy. You will be missed by decent people everywhere.
Carter is a great man and probably as close to a saint as most of us will ever see.
To any Democrat that was part of “official Washington” during Carter’s term, all those that looked down their noses at him, that thought they were smarter (they weren’t), or better (again, they weren’t) than him and didn’t do their utmost to push his policies and agenda I say this: Take a cold, hard look at what we got with Reagan. And think of the line from the chorus of Big Yellow Taxi – “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Carter was a visionary, a great humanitarian, and one of the few honest, ethical and decent human beings on earth, let alone in Washington. I loved him from the get go and it’s a terrible shame that it has taken this long for him to get the credit and respect he deserved and earned.