Among the dignitaries who got a bird’s-eye view of the swearing-in ceremony for President Barack Obama’s second term yesterday, ex-President Bill Clinton — with his mane of snow-white hair and ever-expressive face — was especially hard to miss. Blending more into the background — much like his one term in office — was the even whiter-haired former president on stage, Jimmy Carter.
His presence called to mind the milestone he set with minimum notice in early September — longest post-presidency tenure.
At that point last year, Carter surpassed Herbert Hoover, who shortly into a term that began in 1929 saw the stock market crash and the Great Depression grip America — and decided the best way to combat the economic turmoil was to do little. Voters resoundingly bounced him from office in favor of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and Hoover officially turned over the White House keys to his successor on March 4, 1933 (the January inauguration date was set for the next election cycle).
Much like Carter became for Republicans, Hoover for decades was a favorite whipping-boy for Democrats, who would sneeringly invoke his name as a symbol of political ineptitude. But also much like Carter, an advocate for housing for those in hardship and fair elections around the globe, Hoover kept himself busy with worthwhile activities after leaving office, including organizing a school-meals program for much of occupied Germany following World War II and overseeing the famed think tank named for him at Stanford University.
Hoover had been an ex-president for a bit more than 31-and-a-half years when he died in 1964 at age 90.
For Carter, 88, it’s been 32 years and two days — and counting — since Ronald Reagan replaced him as president.