Billy Carter took out large personal bank loans in 1977, the same period during which the family peanut warehouse he managed was encountering problems paying its debts.
Records in the Sumter County courthouse here show that in addition to two sizable bank loans, the president's brother also borrowed $148,908 from Carter Farms Inc., another family company.
A federal grand jury in Atlanta asked Billy Carter about his personal loans last October, but Carter said he refused to answer because "it wasn't any of their damn business." That jury has been investigating primarily the financial affairs of former federal budget director Bert Lance.
Billy Carter's personal loans appear to be separate from the Carter warehouse transactions. The transactions were criticized Wednesday in a report, sanctioned by a federal court, that was written by two directors of the National Bank of Georgia. The bank is a major creditor of the warehouse. Lance headed the bank before joining the Carter administration.
The picture of Billy Carter that emerges from records here and in neighboring Marion County is that of an individual plunging into personal debt at the same time the peanut business he was responsible for incurred nearly $500,000 in overdrafts at the National Bank of Georgia.
During the first nine months of the Carter administration, records indicate, the personal loans of the president's younger brother exceeded $300,000. Billy Carter has acknowledged annual earnings of about $300,000 -- some $100,000 more than his brother's salary -- from personal appearances and other activities since Jimmy Carter became president.
Billy Carter Thursday declined to explain the purpose of the loans. He said through his spokesman, Randy Coleman of Plains, Ga., that he is "a private citizen whose personal loans are nobody's business."
J. Frank Myers, a prominent Americus attorney whose firm has represented Billy Carter in business matters, said he had no information on the reason for the loans. "And if I knew, I couldn't tell you," said Myers, who described himself as a longtime friend to "all the Carters."
Courthouse records indicate that the estimated $300,000 in loans does not include Billy Carter's financing in early 1977 of a large home and surrounding acreage he bought in a littletraveled part of Marion County to gain his family more privacy.
The loans break down this way:
In May 1977, according to the records, Billy Carter and his wife, Sybil, borrowed $60,000 from First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Americus. They put up land they owned in Plains as collateral for the six-year loan.
Part of these proceeds may have been used a month later when, according to courthouse records, Billy Carter bought a half-interest in a fouracre tract of land in Sumter County for an undisclosed amount.
In August 1977, Billy and Sybil Carter took out another personal loan from the National Bank of Georgia. Although the public documents do not list the amount borrowed, three tracts of land already owned by the couple -- which they used as collateral for the loan -- indicate the loan was in excess of $100,000.
A month later, the Carters borrowed $148,908 from Carter Farms, Inc. As collateral, they put up the same land used for the National Bank of Georiga loan. Banking experts in Georgia said this would mean that the loan from Carter Farms was secured by a second mortgage.
The courthouse records showed no additional property purchases by Billy or Sybil Carter in 1977.