Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a Georgia-born humanitarian, mental health advocate and wife of the 39th President Jimmy Carter, died Sunday at the age of 96.
A statement from the Carter Center said Rosalynn died peacefully at home, with her family at her side.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I accomplished,” President Carter said.
“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, she always knew someone loved me and supported me.”
His family announced in May 2023 that he had been diagnosed with dementia, and he later joined the former president for palliative care at his Plains home in November.
President Joe Biden issued a statement saying the former first lady “walked her own path, inspiring a nation and the world along the way.”
“Throughout her incredible life as First Lady of Georgia and First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn did much to address many of society’s greatest needs,” Biden said.
Former first lady Rosalyn Carter has died at age 96.Getty Images
“She was an advocate for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls; an advocate for the mental health and well-being of all people; and an advocate for the often invisible and unpaid caregivers of our children, elderly loved ones, and people with disabilities.”
Former President George W. Bush paid tribute to the former first lady and called Carter a worthy and strong woman.
“There was no greater supporter of President Carter, and their partnership was a wonderful example of loyalty and fidelity. She leaves an important legacy in his work to destigmatize mental health. We join our fellow citizens in sending our condolences to President Carter and his family,” Bush said in a statement along with former first lady Laura Bush.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter married in 1946 after being long-time family friends. fake images
Gov. Kathy Hochul also sent her condolences in a social media post Sunday afternoon.
“Rosalynn Carter lived a life of service to her community and our nation,” the Democratic colleague wrote in X. “New York joins the Carter family in mourning their loss.”
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in the small town of Plains, Georgia, the same town as her future husband, on August 18, 1927, and was the oldest of four children.
When she was just 13, her father died of leukemia, forcing her mother to work as a seamstress to support her children, according to her official White House biography.
President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter dance at a White House Congressional Ball in 1977. Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Despite having to help at home as the oldest daughter, Carter continued her studies and graduated from high school and eventually from Georgia Southwestern College.
She had her first date with Jimmy Carter, an old family friend, in 1945, while he was home from the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
“She’s the girl I want to marry,” Jimmy Carter told his mother after that first outing with 17-year-old Rosalynn.
Jimmy Carter told his mother he wanted to marry Rosalynn after their first date in 1945. Photo by Karl Schumacher – White House via CNP/Getty Images
They married in 1946 and, after moving to several cities to support Jimmy’s Navy career, settled back in Plains after his father’s death in 1953 and took over the family peanut farm, where Rosalynn managed the bills.
He assisted in Jimmy’s political campaigns for the Georgia State Senate in 1962, his run for governor in 1970, and finally his run for the White House in 1977.
As first lady, she had a strong presence in the White House, dubbed by DC Press as “the Steel Magnolia” for her uniquely strong nature mixed with the stereotypical grace of a Southern political wife.
She expanded the role of first lady, working from her own office in the East Wing, with her own staff, on her own initiative. She also participated in high-level meetings with the president’s advisors, raising eyebrows among the capital’s elite.
Carter was born on August 18, 1927 in Plains, Georgia.Photo by Diana Walker/Getty Images Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. Corbis via Getty Images The Carters at a puppet show in Atlanta with their daughter Amy during the presidential campaign Jimmy. Bettmann Archive
Carter biographer Jonathan Alter told the Associated Press that Rosalynn was a quiet presence at most Cabinet meetings, listening intently to provide Jimmy with sound advice.
She launched her own agenda to commend her husband’s dedication to the less fortunate, including campaigning for people with disabilities, women’s rights and, most famously, fighting the social stigma of mental health issues. .
She served as honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, which worked to pass the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.
Rosalynn Carter spent her life advocating for mental health awarenessGetty Images The Carters celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary in their hometown of Plains, Georgia, in 2021.REUTERS
Alter said she considers her active role as first lady comparable to that of Eleanor Roosevelt and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but noted that her relationship with her husband seemed less strained than others.
Rosalynn’s activism continued after she left the White House in 1981. She founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers in 1987, which promotes the mental health and well-being of family caregivers.
She is the author of five books, including her 1984 autobiography that she co-wrote with her husband about her life after politics, “First Lady from Plains; Everything to gain: make the most of the rest of her life.”
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter working on a house in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 5, 2010 for Habitat for Humanity. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS Rosalynn Carter speaking at a Habitat for Humanity site in Memphis on Nov. 2, 2015. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File The Carters attended the inauguration of then-President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017. .PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images Rosalynn Carter with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden during a visit to her home in Plains on April 29, 2021. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Rosalynn entered home hospice care at the couple’s former home in Plains on Nov. 17, 2023, nearly nine months to the day Jimmy did after having a series of hospitalizations.
The couple was “spending time together and with their family,” their grandson, Jason Carter, said in an announcement posted by the Carter Center.
The Carters made a rare public appearance at the Plains Peanut Festival on September 23, 2023, just days before the former commander in chief’s 99th birthday. The video showed them touring the city in the back of a black van.
With postal cables