He was born in the town of Proti -- once known as Kupkoy -- in the region of Serres. His father was Georgios Karamanlis, who fought during the national struggle of the Greeks in Macedonia, in 1904-1908. He first became prime minister in 1956 securing an absolute parliamentary majority in three successive elections (1956, 1958 and 1961). In 1959 he announced a five-year plan (1960–64) for the Greek economy, emphasizing improvement of agricultural and industrial production.
In July 1963, he resigned the premiership after a disagreement with King Paul of Greece, and spent four months abroad. In November, National Radical Union (ERE), under his leadership was defeated in the general election. Karamanlis left Greece after realising that the conditions necessary for him to continue his work no longer existed. He spent the next 11 years in exile in France.
He was a vocal opponent of the military junta that seized power in Greece in April 1967. After the fall of the junta in July 1974, he returned to Athens as prime minister. He formed a government of National Unity in order to deal immediately with the Cyprus crisis and to restore democratic institutions in Greece.
Karamanlis served as prime minister until 1980 and as president from 1980 to 1985. He oversaw Greece's entry (1981) into the European Community (now the European Union). He held the presidency again in 1990–95, and was succeeded by Costis Stephanopoulos.
He died in 1998 after a short illness.
See also: Costas Karamanlis