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Elvis Called President Carter While He Was Totally Stoned, and They Talked for ‘A Long Time’

Photo Credits: HUM Images/ Universal Images Group/ Getty Images, and  GAB Archive/ Redferns/ Getty Images/ cropped
Photo Credits: HUM Images/ Universal Images Group/ Getty Images, and GAB Archive/ Redferns/ Getty Images/ cropped

There aren’t many people in the world who could get a call through directly to the president’s phone in the Oval Office. But if anyone would be able to, it makes sense that it would be the King. In the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley called the White House to speak with President Jimmy Carter, and he was actually put through. It wasn’t just any call, however, as Elvis was completely stoned the whole time.

Family ties

As impressive as it is that Elvis was able to get a phone call through to the president, it was likely because they had distant family ties. Carter once explained, “Elvis is kin to me on my mother’s side. Our families came from Union County, North Carolina, and Elvis is my cousin.” Although they called themselves cousins, it was a very distant relationship.

Colored photo of Jimmy and Eleanor Carter with Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley poses for a photo with Jimmy Carter and his wife Eleanor Carter backstage at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29, 1973. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images)

Carter was actually a sixth cousin once removed from Elvis, but that didn’t stop them from spending family time together. Carter recalled that when Elvis came to Atlanta, “we would visit with him (and) obviously attend his concerts.”

Mr. President, Elvis is on the line

Carter vividly recalled the phone call he received from Elvis shortly after he was elected president. He quickly realized that Elvis was “totally stoned and didn’t know what he was saying. His sentences were almost incoherent.” Carter talked to him for a long time before he was able to figure out that Elvis was calling in the hopes of getting a Presidential pardon.

Apparently, he had a sheriff friend who was in legal trouble.“I asked him what the sheriff’s sentence was, and he said that he hadn’t been tried in court yet. Well, I said, ‘Elvis, I can’t consider a pardon until after a trial and sentencing and everything.’ I don’t think he understood that.” Carter also said he spent much of the call quelling his cousin’s delusions and fears.

Colored photo of Jimmy Carter in a suit sitting at his desk in the White House.
President Jimmy Carter sitting at his desk in the white house, about to address the nation on his energy proposals, April 18, 1977. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

He was adamant that he was being “shadowed by sinister forces” and that his friend, the sheriff, was being framed. The delusions and paranoia that Carter experienced during his phone call were apparently common for Elvis in his later years. Despite talking to him the first time that he called, Carter never spoke to him again, despite Elvis continuing to call the White House right up until his death.

Remembered by the president

On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley was found unconscious by his then-girlfriend Ginger Alden and was rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. His death was caused by heart failure which, in recent years, has been linked to his history of drug abuse. Jimmy Carter issued a statement after his cousin’s death saying that it “deprives our country of a part of itself.”

Black and white photo of Elvis Presley with his arms open wearing a costume on stage.
Elvis Presley performing at a concert in Lincoln, Nebraska, June 20, 1977. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

More from us: Here’s Why JFK Kept A Coconut On His Oval Office Desk

President Carter went on: “More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled…His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.”

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.