Billy Carter

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For the hockey player, see Billy Carter (ice hockey).
Billy Carter
Jimmy and Billy Carter trimmed.gif
Billy Carter (right), greets his brother, President Jimmy Carter, at the commencement ceremonies at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta February 20, 1979.
Born William Alton Carter III
(1937-03-29)March 29, 1937
Plains, Georgia
Died September 25, 1988(1988-09-25) (aged 51)
Plains, Georgia
Spouse(s) Sybil Spires
(m. 1955–1988, his death)

William Alton "Billy" Carter III (March 29, 1937 – September 25, 1988) was an American farmer, businessman, and politician. Carter promoted Billy Beer, and was a candidate for Mayor of Plains, Georgia. He was also the younger brother of former Georgia Governor and U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Early years[edit]

Carter was born in Plains, Georgia to James Earl Carter Sr. and Lillian Gordy Carter. 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 (born 1938), also of Plains. They were the parents of six children: Kim, Jana, William "Buddy", Marle, Mandy, and Earl, who was 12 years old when his father died.

1970s and later[edit]

In 1972, Billy Carter purchased a gas and service station in Plains. He owned and operated it for most of the decade.[1]

Carter ran for mayor of Plains in 1976, but lost the election by a few votes. It was his only attempt to win elective office.[2]

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. 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.[3]


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.[4]) This led to a Senate hearing on alleged influence peddling which the press named Billygate.[5] 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."[6]

A 1985 Wall Street Journal investigation suggested that a series of Billygate articles written by Michael Ledeen and published in The New Republic in October 1980 were part of a disinformation campaign intended to influence the outcome of that year's presidential election. According to the reporting, Francesco Pazienza, an officer of the Italian intelligence agency SISMI, alleged that Ledeen was paid $120,000 for his work on Billygate and other projects. Pazienza was later tried and convicted in absentia for using "extortion and fraud to obtain embarrassing facts about Billy Carter".[7]


Carter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the autumn of 1987, and received unsuccessful treatments for the disease. He died in Plains the following year at the age of 51. His death came just five years after the death of his sister Ruth Carter; like Billy, Ruth died of pancreatic cancer when she was in her 50s.[8]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Billy Carter's Station
  2. ^ * Robert Buccellato, "Jimmy Carter in Plains: The Presidential Hometown" Arcadia Publishing, South Carolina 2016 ISBN 978-1467115414
  3. ^ Billy Carter Curbs Tongue, Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 15, 1979
  4. ^ Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America's Private Intelligence Network (Carroll and Graf, 2005), 162.
  5. ^ Sabato, Larry (July 21, 1998). "Billygate – 1980". Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Trento, Prelude to Terror, 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." Ibid., 160, 157.
  7. ^ Unger, Craig (July 2006). "The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 5 August 2013. A 1985 investigation by Jonathan Kwitny in The Wall Street Journal reported that the New Republic article was part of a larger disinformation scam run by Ledeen and SISMI to tilt the election, and that “Billy Carter wasn’t the only one allegedly getting money from a foreign government.” According to Pazienza, Kwitny reported, Michael Ledeen had received at least $120,000 from SISMI in 1980 or 1981 for his work on Billygate and other projects. Ledeen even had a coded identity, Z-3, and had money sent to him in a Bermuda bank account, Pazienza said. Ledeen told the Journal that a consulting firm he owned, I.S.I., worked for SISMI and may have received the money. He said he did not recall whether he had a coded identity. Pazienza was subsequently convicted in absentia on multiple charges, including having used extortion and fraud to obtain embarrassing facts about Billy Carter. Ledeen was never charged with any crime, but he was cited in Pazienza’s indictment, which read, “With the illicit support of the SISMI and in collaboration with the well-known American ‘Italianist’ Michael Ledeen, Pazienza succeeded in extorting, also using fraudulent means, information … on the Libyan business of Billy Carter, the brother of the then President of the United States.” 
  8. ^ Hershey, Jr., Robert D. (September 26, 1988). "Billy Carter Dies of Cancer at 51. Troubled Brother of a President.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 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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