In 2012, Carter surpassed Herbert Hoover as the longest-retired president in U.S. history. He is also the first president to mark the 40th anniversary of his inauguration. He set up the Carter Center in 1982 as his base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. In addition, Carter is considered a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project and has written several books about various topics. In reference to current political views, he has criticized some of Israel's actions and policies in regards to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has advocated for a two-state solution. He has vigorously opposed the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC to strike down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions, saying that the U.S. is "no longer a functioning democracy" and now has a system of "unlimited political bribery".
Plains was a boomtown of 600 people at the time of Carter's birth. Carter's father was a successful local businessman, who ran a general store, and an investor in farmland. He previously served as a reserve second lieutenant in the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps during World War I.
The family moved several times during Carter Jr.'s infancy. The Carters settled on a dirt road in nearby Archery, which was almost entirely populated by impoverished African American families. They eventually had three more children: Gloria, Ruth, and Billy. Carter got along well with his parents, although his mother worked long hours and was often absent in his childhood. Although Earl was staunchly pro-segregation, he allowed his son to befriend the black farmhands' children. Carter was an enterprising teenager who was given his own acre of Earl's farmland where he grew, packaged, and sold peanuts. He also rented out a section of tenant housing that he had purchased.
Carter attended the Plains High School from 1937 to 1941. By that time, the Great Depression had impoverished Archery and Plains, but the family benefited from New Deal farming subsidies, and Earl took a position as a community leader. Young Jimmy was a diligent student with a fondness for reading. A popular anecdote holds that he was passed over for valedictorian after he and his friends skipped school to venture downtown in a hot rod. Carter's truancy was mentioned in a local newspaper, although it is not clear he would have been valedictorian anyway. Carter's teacher, Julia Coleman, was an especially strong influence. As an adolescent, Carter played on the Plains High School basketball team; he also joined the Future Farmers of America and developed a lifelong interest in woodworking.