The Truth About Jimmy Carter's Sketchy Brother

Former president Jimmy Carter is known for a lot of things. Aside from once being the leader of the U.S., Carter also used to be governor of the state of Georgia. He's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, his presidency is remembered for handling the Iranian hostage crisis, he is one of the few one-term presidents of the 20th-century, and he didn't know it then, but he was the first American president to be born in a hospital (via National Park Service). Oh, and there was that time he purportedly saw a UFO. However, another unforgettable thing Carter will be known for is his relation to Billy Carter — his baby brother.

The youngest of the family, Billy was the fourth child born to the Carter clan. Jimmy was the oldest, followed by sisters Gloria and Ruth. The family grew up poor in Plains, Georgia and even with the humble upbringing, by all accounts the family grew up very close. Obviously one member of the family would go on to become a future president, but Billy too would become quite famous too — if not always for good reasons.

Following his brother's footsteps....or not

Jimmy Carter was elected president on November 2, 1976 (via Carter Center). Naturally, close relatives of the president usually end up earning a place in the spotlight as a result of their connection. Unfortunately for Carter, his brother, Billy, would capture a lot of that attention. He even reveled in it long before Carter clinched the Democratic nomination. And while it seemed very innocent at first, Billy ended up achieving no small measure of notoriety. He became a source of major interest during Carter's campaign, earning a lot of attention for his pride at being a redneck and beer aficionado. Outwardly, Billy stood in stark contrast to Carter.

The young Carter also went for a career in politics. He ran for mayor of the Carters' hometown of Plains, not long after his brother won the presidency, and his campaign shed major light on how different Billy was from his brother. When he lost the bid, he told The New York Times the anti-drinking voting bloc was the reason he didn't win, and that his brother "could have done more."

Making a stain on the Carter name

And there probably was more the older Carter could have done at the start, if only he knew the train wreck that was set to ensue after Billy's political run. The following year, in 1977, Billy didn't just go away with his tail tucked between his legs as many had hoped. He simply moved on to the next thing, which happened to be marketing and promoting his own alcoholic beverage, aptly called Billy Beer.

Billy found himself as partners with a failing brewing company that needed some commercial revamping, says Legacy. Of course, as one of the most visible and proud beer-drinkers in the country at that moment, the company tapped Billy into a partnership — and so Billy Beer was born. It was a hit sensation with his fans, and millions of cans of beer were sold at the height of its popularity, according to Rusty Cans. But not even a year in, his beer line was out of business.

Another Carter author

The first author in the Carter family was Jimmy, but his brother would get a publishing deal too. And why not? He was one of the most controversial and fascinating figures of the late '70s. Billy would write a book titled, "Redneck Power: The Wit And Wisdom Of Billy Carter" in 1977, sharing all of his, ahem, redneck pride and knowledge.

He'd also launch further controversies by his concerning statements and actions. Specifically, those things he said about women's rights, peeing in public, and profiting off beer sales on Sundays at his gas station, per United Press International. He gave a new meaning to redneck pride and marketed a pick-up truck for his demographic (via The Truth About Cars). There was almost nothing Billy didn't find himself involved in and he took full advantage of the spotlight. Around that same time, Billy moved beyond national news and was enjoying some international attention. Unfortunately, a lot of that attention was from Libya.

The Billy-gate crisis

In the '70s, U.S.-Libya relations were not exactly at their height, to say the least. Libya was against many of the U.S. policies in the Middle East, and was even accused of funding terrorist groups, per Country Studies. And to make matters worse, Billy had made several visits to the Northern African country in 1978 and 1979. During a visit in 1980, the government of Libya lent Billy $220,000 for apparent business deals. Billy later had to register as an agent as a result. His relationship with Libya did go over well in Washington, and neither did it go for his brother, the President, who had no explanation for what his brother was actually doing. Carter once said that he had "more influence over members of the U.S. Senate than I do over Billy," via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The incident caused a huge fuss about foreign interference and Billy was called to testify about his involvement with Libya to the Senate, reported The Washington Post. Libya's leader, Colonel Gaddafi, would defend giving Billy the loan and said it was strictly for professional business matters, reported The New York Times in 1981.

The final stake for Billy Carter

Out of all the things Billy Carter became known for, his Libyan connection most disturbed the American government and caused a great deal of (probably deserved) frenzy. Afterward, the love affair that the American people once had with him was seemingly over. No one was interested in what he had to say anymore, he was accused of anti-Semitism, and his 15 minutes of fame were up, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Oh, and the IRS came after him, too.

The once-lively presidential sibling who once only brought shame to Carter, was now an international embarrassment. Billy would lose a lot of money in the process. In 1987, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in 1988 he died of his illness. He was just 51 years old. Billy was survived by his wife Sybil, and his six children with her: Earl, Jana, Kim, Mandy, Marle, and William.

Billy was not the first or the last presidential sibling to draw a sense of embarrassment for a president, says ABC News, but all of his antics greatly set him apart from others.