Kingston author writes new tribute to Jimmy Carter

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Local author Arthur Milnes has released a new book celebrating America’s longest-serving president, Jimmy Carter, as he turns 98 later this year.

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98 reasons to thank Jimmy Carter reviews some of the former president’s most significant accomplishments, from brokering peace between Israel and Egypt to supporting the emergence of the craft beer industry in the United States

Carter, a Democrat, served one term as president, between 1977 and 1981, before being ousted by Republican Ronald Reagan, but his legacy as a politician and philanthropist lives on.

Milnes, a former political speechwriter and public historian, has written about the impact of Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, and even hosted them at his home when Carter visited Queen’s University in 2012.

“It’s no secret that I’m a big, big fan of President Carter. He is my hero. And it has been a great honor for me over the past 20 years to become friends with him,” Milnes said in an interview with the Whig-Standard. “I thought, why don’t I do something different, which is a fun, easy-to-digest little book to honor President Carter as he heads towards his 98th birthday (October 1), making him the longest-serving American president.”

While Milnes had plenty of material to work with, he tried to highlight some of the lighter elements of Carter’s life and work.

Among the lesser known facts about Carter is the fact that he was the recipient of one of the last phone calls made by Elvis Presley.

“One of the last phone calls before his death was made to President Carter,” Milnes explained. “A friend of Elvis’s had been charged with a crime and he wanted the President to grant a precautionary pardon. So he phoned the White House switchboard and asked to speak to the President. He went through a few people before he ‘they don’t realize it was actually Elvis.

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Although the president did not issue the pardon, Milnes said he gladly answered the call.

“Of course you always answer the call of the king – that’s what President Carter once told me,” he said.

While Carter has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most famous people, Milnes says it’s his work at the Carter Center and with Habitat for Humanity that really motivates him.

In 1986, The Carter Center launched a campaign to eradicate Guinea worm, a debilitating parasitic infection that affects people with limited access to clean water. At the start of this campaign in 1986, more than 3.5 million people were infected with Guinea worm, but by 2021 that number was just 14.

“He says he wants to see this from scratch before he dies,” Milne said.

In addition to The Carter Center, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have long worked with Habitat for Humanity.

“He did his first building project with Habitat for Humanity in 1984, and until 2020 he was doing ‘Carter Work Projects’. He and his wife spent a week every year doing that, and they have done it at least three times in Canada,” Milnes said.

In honor of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter’s commitment to their philanthropic work, Milnes will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of her books to the Kingston branch of Habitat for Humanity, an organization dear to Carter.

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