Jimmy Carter is considered an unlucky US President – but has repeatedly been recognized as the country’s “best ex-president” over the past few decades. The Democrat was only 56 years old when his political career lay in ruins after the ignominious deselection in 1980. At the time, Carter had the reputation of being an unworldly idealist, a failed statesman with no political clout. On the basis of his ideals, however, he built a second career as a tireless fighter for peace and human rights, which was crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Now the 98-year-old’s life, full of ups and downs, seems to be nearing its end: The Carter Center, which he founded, announced on Saturday that the oldest living former US President will receive palliative care at his home in Plains in southern Georgia. “After a series of brief hospital stays, former US President Jimmy Carter has today decided to spend the rest of his time at home with his family.”

Carter was also born in Plains on October 1, 1924. After school he graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis and served as an officer in the submarine fleet. At this time he also married his wife Rosalynn, together they had four children. After the death of his father, the devout Baptist returned to Georgia in the early 1950s and took over the family’s peanut farm.

Carter eventually went into politics, being elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962 and then to governor eight years later. Although initially little known nationally, he secured his party’s nomination in the 1976 presidential election, defeating Republican incumbent Gerald Ford.

Much like fellow party member Barack Obama more than three decades later, Carter positioned himself as an outsider who would bring about change in Washington. At that time, after the Watergate affair and the Vietnam War, the population had lost confidence in the political caste. “Carter seemed just the type of leader the disaffected nation was looking for,” writes historian Julian Zelizer in his biography of Jimmy Carter.

However, the hopes were dashed. Carter was able to record some foreign policy successes: the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union on the limitation of nuclear weapons.

But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 caught Carter cold, and in the eyes of his critics the hostage crisis in Tehran completed the picture of a head of state who was indecisive and incompetent.

After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, radical students stormed the US embassy there, and an attempt to free the more than 50 Americans held in Iran ended in failure. Rising unemployment and high inflation also contributed to the bad mood in the 1980 election year and ultimately caused Carter’s defeat to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan after just one term.

Carter began his second career as a peace ambassador in 1982 when he founded the NGO Carter Center. Wherever conflicts blazed and people were in distress due to poverty, illness or violence, the ex-president appeared and traveled to more than 140 countries.

In 2002, Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of tireless efforts to resolve international conflicts peacefully, to promote democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.

In recent years, the aged ex-president has had to deal with health problems. In 2015 he had to undergo radiation treatment for a brain tumor – and beat the cancer.

His grandson Jason Carter explained on Saturday that he had seen his grandparents the day before. “They are at peace and their house is full of love, as always.”