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The Jimmy Carter UFO Incident is the name given to an incident in which Jimmy Carter (US President 1977-1981) reported seeing an unidentified flying object while at Learymarker, Georgiamarker in 1969.

While governor of Georgia, Carter was asked to file a report of the sighting by the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, Oklahomamarker, which he did in September 1973. Since its writing, the report has been discussed several times by both Ufologists and by members of the mainstream media. Carter doubts that the object was an alien spacecraft.


One evening in 1969, two years before he became governor of Georgia, Carter was preparing to give a speech at a Lions Club meeting. At about 7:15 p.m (EST), one of the guests called his attention to a strange object that was visible about 30 degrees above the horizon to the west of where he was standing. Carter described the object as being bright white and as being about as bright as the moon. It was said to have appeared to have closed in on where he was standing but to have stopped beyond a stand of pine trees some distance from him. The object is then said to have changed color, first to blue, then to red, then back to white, before appearing to recede into the distance.

Carter felt that the object was self-luminous, but not a solid in nature. Carter's report indicates that it was witnessed by about ten or twelve other people, and was in view for ten to twelve minutes before it passed out of sight.

In 1973 Carter said
"There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of green light appeared in the western sky.
This was right after sundown.
It got brighter and brighter.
And then it eventually disappeared.
It didn't have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light.
None of us could understand what it was."

Speaking in a 2005 interview, Carter states:
"all of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said, 'Look, over in the west!'
And there was a bright light in the sky.
We all saw it.
And then the light, it got closer and closer to us.
And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees.
And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white.
And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance."


The exact date on which the sighting occurred has been called into question by investigators. According to the report that he filed with the International UFO Bureau four years after the incident, Carter saw the UFO in October 1969. However investigators have cited Lions Club records as evidence that it occurred nine months earlier .

According to a meeting report that he filed with the Lions Club, Carter gave his Leary speech on January 6, 1969, not in October. The setting of his January meeting as described in his report to the Lions Club also matches the setting that he would later describe to the media when speaking about his sighting. His report to the Lions Club made no mention of the sighting itself .

Other evidence uncovered rules out the October 1969 date and is consistent with January 1969: (1) Carter visited the Leary Lions Club in his capacity as district governor of the Lions Club. His term ended in June 1969. (2) The Leary Lions Club disbanded several months before October 1969 .

Object and investigation

According to an investigation carried out in 1976, some seven years after the event, most of those present at the meeting either did not recall the event, or did not recall it as being anything important. According to Fred Hart, the only guest contacted who remembered seeing the object: "It seems like there was a little—like a blue light or something or other in the sky that night—like some kind of weather balloon they send out or something ... it had been pretty far back in my mind."

While puzzled by the object and its origins Carter, himself, later said that while he had considered the object to be a UFO—on the grounds it was unexplained—his knowledge of physics had meant he had not believed himself to be witnessing an alien spacecraft.

On January 6, 1969 the sky was clear in Leary and the planet Venus was near its maximum brightness and in the direction described by Carter. Ufologist Robert Sheaffer concluded that the object that Carter witnessed was a misidentification of Venus . This could also be the Venus "Halo",[427302],as was discussed on the podcast Skeptics' Guide To The Universe #105 in an interview with Jimmy Carter. In the interview Carter stated that he did not believe the object was Venus, explaining that he was an amateur astronomer and knew what Venus looked like. He also explicitly said he did not believe it was an alien craft and at the time assumed it was probably a military aircraft from a near by base. Carter also said that he did not believe that any extraterrestrials have visited Earth. He also stated he knows of no government cover up of extraterrestrial visits and that the rumors that the CIA refused to give him information about UFOs are not true.

Personal impact

The sighting is said to have had a personal impact on Carter and his perception of UFO and UFO sightings. During his 1976 election campaign, he is said to have told reporters that, as a result of it, he would institute a policy of openness if he were elected to office, saying:
"One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky.
If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and the scientists."

Despite his earlier pledge, once elected, Carter distanced himself from disclosure, citing "defense implications" as being behind his decision.

International UFO Bureau report

Image:Jimmy_Carter_UFO_1.gif|The report Carter submitted (page 1)Image:Jimmy_Carter_UFO_2.gif|The report Carter submitted (page 2)

Early reports in the media

  • Carter Once Saw a UFO on 'Very Sober Occasion', by Howell Raines, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 14, 1973, p. 1D

  • Carter's story appeared in the June 8, 1976 issue of The National Enquirer. This account contained a number of errors, including incorrectly stating that the event occurred in Thomaston, Georgia in 1973, and that sighting was after the club meeting .

  • In February 1977, NICAP republished Carter's original report in UFO Investigator, but altered his handwritten report to make it appear that it had been submitted directly to NICAP as a typed document. .

  • Learyites leery of Carter's encounter: No one recalls 1970 UFO spotting, by Tom Tiede, Mt. Pleasant Daily Tribune (Texas), Feb. 2, 1978

See also


  1. Carter, Jimmy (1969) Report to the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City (PDF)
  2. Adams, Cecil (1984) "The Straight Dope Chicago", Review Press Incorporated, ISBN 0914091549
  3. The Straight Dope: Did Jimmy Carter really see a UFO?
  4. Hylton, Wil S. (2005) "The Gospel According to Jimmy", GQ
  5. CNN report with Carter near the end
  6. Harwood, William R (2002) "The Disinformation Cycle: Hoaxes, Delusions, Security Beliefs, and Compulsory Mediocrity" Xlibris Corporation ISBN 1401043542
  7. The Skeptics Guide - Skepticast #105: 7/25/2007
  8. Good, Timothy (1989) "Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O. Cover-Up" Quill, ISBN 0688092020
  9. This day in history - "1973: Carter files report on UFO sighting", The History Channel
  10. Sheaffer, Robert (1981) "The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence", Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-146-0

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