A timeline of key moments from former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s 96 years

PLAINS, Ga. — Notable milestones and events in the life of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who died Sunday at the age of 96:

August 18, 1927:

Eleanor Rosalynn Smith is born in her family’s home in Plains, Georgia. She is the daughter of Wilburn Edgar Smith, a mechanic, and Allie Murray Smith, a seamstress and postal worker.

End of August 1927:

“Miss Lillian” Carter, a neighbor and nurse who gave birth to Rosalynn, brings her son, Jimmy, almost 3 years old, to meet the new baby.


Rosalynn’s father dies, leaving her in charge of helping her mother raise her younger siblings.


She begins dating Jimmy Carter, now a midshipman at the Naval Academy and brother of her close friend, Ruth Carter.

Spring 1946:

He graduates from Georgia Southwestern College.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter dies at age 96.AP

July 7, 1946:

She marries Jimmy at Plains Methodist Church, her childhood congregation. They would have four children: John William (“Jack”), born in 1947; James Earl III (“Chip”), 1950; Donnel Jeffrey, 1952; and Amy Lynn, 1967.


Rosalynn manages the Carter household while Jimmy serves in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander.


He starts helping Jimmy in the farm warehouse; Soon she “knew more about the business than he did about the paper,” she recalled before his 75th birthday.


He helps Jimmy campaign for the state Senate, a position he would win in a disputed election that was ultimately resolved in court.


Rosalynn begins campaigning alone for the first time during Jimmy’s first run for governor of Georgia, a race he loses.

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But his model of campaigning separately would be key to winning four years later and capturing the presidency in 1976.


She leads the “Peanut Brigade” of the Carter family, friends and Georgia supporters who fanned out across Iowa and other key nominating states to expand the campaign’s people-to-people reach.

Rosalynn with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the Democratic National Convention in New York City on July 15, 1976. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The same model they used in Georgia revolutionizes the presidential campaign, with Rosalynn as Jimmy’s main replacement.

January 20, 1977:

Rosalynn, the newly sworn-in 39th president, and her family draw special attention on Inauguration Day by walking down Pennsylvania Avenue instead of riding in an armored limousine.

The Carters enroll their daughter Amy in a majority-black public school in Washington, DC.

In Atlanta, when Carter was governor, Amy had attended a private school.

Rosalynn watches as Jimmy Carter takes the oath of office at his inauguration on January 20, 1977. CONSOLIDATED NEWS/AFP via Getty Images

Summer 1977:

Rosalynn is on a 13-day diplomatic trip to seven Latin American nations and Caribbean islands.

He also urges Jimmy to delay taking action on the treaties granting control of the Panama Canal, arguing that it is too politically costly for a first term. He continues with the treaties.

September 1978:

Rosalynn is with Jimmy at Camp David during much of the intense negotiations with Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

She listens to and advises the president daily before the three leaders reach the Camp David Accords.

Rosalynn was with Jimmy Carter during much of the Camp David Accords with Israel and Egypt in 1978.Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Begin and Sadat are affectionate toward the first lady, and Sadat becomes especially close to the Carters.

November 1979:

Rosalynn leads a delegation to Cambodian refugee camps, drawing international media attention to the humanitarian crisis. She convinces the president to admit more refugees to the US.

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Summer and autumn 1980:

She campaigns almost daily for Jimmy, while he remains in the White House working to secure the release of American hostages in Iran.


She helps win congressional approval for the Mental Health Systems Act, dedicating more federal money to local mental health treatment centers; Republican Ronald Reagan would later change course as president.

Rosalynn applauding her husband after he conceded the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images The Carters hosted the Reagans at the White House on November 20, 1980. Photo by Arnie Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

November 1980:

Reagan denies a second term to Jimmy Carter, who wins 51.6 percent of the popular vote, Carter’s 41.7 percent, and independent John Anderson’s 6.7 percent.


The Carters co-founded the Carter Center in Atlanta with the mission to resolve conflicts, protect human rights, defend democracy, and prevent disease around the world.


Rosalynn publishes her memoir, “First Lady from Plains,” in which she admits she misses Washington. It is the first of five books by her.

September 1984:

He travels to New York City, where the Carters volunteer to build homes for Habitat for Humanity; This would become Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s annual work project.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter working on a Habitat for Humanity home in Denver on October 9, 2013. Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images


Establishes the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, located at her university alma mater, to advocate for Americans who are unpaid caregivers.

Summer 1989:

Rosalynn travels with Jimmy on a week-long tour of Africa that includes an international conference on Guinea worm eradication, perhaps the Carter Center’s most ambitious public health initiative.

nineteen ninety six:

Establishes the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, based at the Carter Center, to help working journalists produce better reporting on the topic.

President Bill Clinton presents the Medal of Freedom to Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter on August 9, 1999.PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images


President Bill Clinton awards him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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July 10, 2007:

She testifies before a U.S. House subcommittee, urging Congress to require health insurance policies to cover mental health treatment on par with treatment for other illnesses.

November 2016:

She is hosting the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy for the 32nd time.

Carter at a news conference for a Habitat for Humanity project in Nashville on Oct. 7, 2019. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

October 2019:

In Nashville, the Carters participate in person for the last time in their Habitat for Humanity work project; the program would continue.

April 30, 2021:

The Carters host President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at their Plains home.

The couples had been friends since the 1976 campaign, when Biden, then a young lawmaker from Delaware, became the first U.S. senator to endorse Carter for president.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter in Plains on April 29, 2021. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

July 7, 2021:

The Carters celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary. Offering advice for a successful marriage, she says, “everyone should have some space. “That’s really important.”

February 18, 2023:

The Carter family announces that Jimmy will enter home hospice care.

They would later say they thought he would live only a few days, but he recovered to celebrate his 77th wedding anniversary and 99th birthday later that same year.

Rosalynn died shortly after joining her husband Jimmy in hospice care. AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File

May 30, 2023:

The family announces that Rosalynn has dementia.

September 23, 2023:

The Carters make a surprise appearance at the Plains Peanut Festival parade, riding in a Secret Service vehicle with the windows down in what would be their last public appearance.

November 17, 2023:

The Carter family announces that they have entered home palliative care.

November 19, 2023:

Rosalynn Carter dies at her home in Plains, Georgia, in the same house where the Carters lived when Jimmy was elected to the state Senate in 1962.

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