The Jimmy Carter UFO Incident

The Jimmy Carter UFO Incident refers to a UFO sighting which took place on January 6, 1969, at about 7:15 p.m. (EST) while future United States President Jimmy Carter was preparing to give a speech at a Lions Club meeting in Leary, Georgia. [1] The sighting was innocuous (no little grey aliens peaking through windows) to say the least with Carter describing the object in a report filed with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, September 1973 as arriving from the west, being as bright and about the size of the Moon, its proximity (difficult to determine) around 300-1000 yards and its elevation about 30 degrees above the horizon. The UFO was luminous, not solid, changed color, blue, then red, before disappearing. The incident was witnessed by 10-12 men and lasted 10-12 minutes.

Later the facts were slightly revised: "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."

In a 2005 interview a little more drama: "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." [2]
Innocuous or not the sighting has obviously had a lasting impact on Carter’s perception of UFOs. During his 1976 presidential campaign he purportedly told journalists that as a result of the sighting he would, if elected, introduce a policy of openness, 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."

Once elected, however, Carter distanced himself from disclosure, citing “defense implications” as the reason.

[1] Jimmy Carter served two terms as a Georgia State Senator in the early 1960s, as Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975 and as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

[2] A misidentification of the planet Venus has been offered by some as a possible explanation (on the evening of the meeting the skies over Leary were clear, and Venus, visible in the west, was near its maximum brightness) but not by Carter who said that as an amateur astronomer he knew what Venus looked like. He also added that as a scientist he did not believe it was an alien spacecraft. (Carter has a background in nuclear physics.)

Of other guests later contacted apparently only one, a Mr. Fred Hart, remembered seeing the object, which he described as blue and possibly a weather balloon. His take on the matter, dismissive.

In 2007, perhaps believing his narrative on the incident had become a little overblown, Carter stated that he didn’t remember why he had filed a report with the International UFO Bureau but thinks that it was likely at the request of one of his children.

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