At the age of 96, former first lady and trusted advisor to Jimmy Carter throughout his one time as U.S. president and their subsequent four decades as worldwide humanitarians, Rosalynn Carter has passed away.
The Carter Center reported on Sunday that she passed away after a long battle with dementia and deteriorating health.
Her death was announced in a statement that claimed she “died peacefully, with family by her side” at 2:20 p.m. at her Plains, Georgia, home in the country.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Carter said in the statement. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”
President Joe Biden called the Carters “an incredible family because they brought so much much grace to the office.” He also spoke of the couple’s “great integrity.”
“Imagine they were together for (77) years?” Biden said. “God bless them.”
Rosalynn Carter “was well-known for her efforts on mental health and caregiving and women’s rights. Jill Biden said during the president’s visit with them earlier on Sunday at Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia. “So I hope that during the holidays, you’ll … include the Carter family in your prayers,” she continued.
She made the remarks in a hangar where the Bidens would later host a Thanksgiving feast for military families.
Over the course of the day, responses from world leaders began to trickle in.
More over 77 years into their marriage, the Carters had created what they called a “full partnership.”
Rosalynn participated in Cabinet meetings, addressed sensitive issues, and accompanied her husband on international visits, all of which were unusual for a first lady.
In private conversations, President Carter’s aides would sometimes call her “co-president.”
During their time in the White House from 1977 to 1981, Jimmy Carter told aides, “Rosalynn is my best friend … the perfect extension of me, probably the most influential person in my life.”
The former president, now 99, remains at the couple’s house in Plains after undergoing hospice care himself in February.
Rosalynn Carter took great satisfaction in being an activist first lady, and her behind-the-scenes influence was not questioned because of her fierce loyalty, compassion, and political savvy.
In light of her involvement in a widely reported Cabinet reshuffle, she was compelled to publicly state, “I am not running the government.”
Her political instincts were so highly regarded that several White House staffers claimed they sought her approval on initiatives before bringing them up to the president.
Despite her ostensibly timid attitude and sweet Southern accent, she earned the nickname “the Steel Magnolia” from reporters in Washington, D.C.
In retrospect, both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have acknowledged that Rosalynn was the more politically active of the two.
Years later, she admitted that she missed their lives in Washington, DC, and that she had considered a comeback after Jimmy Carter’s landslide defeat in 1980.
After barely a few months in office, President Jimmy Carter entrusted her with the job of sending a message to Latin American tyrants that the United States would not provide military aid or other support to anyone who violated human rights.
She also felt strongly about how the Carter administration decorated the White House.
While Rosalynn Carter did allow American wine to be served at formal events, the Carters did not offer hard liquor. Square dancing and picnics took the place of fewer ballroom dance socials.
She focused on mental health and issues facing the elderly during her husband’s political career.
When the news media didn’t cover such efforts as much as she believed was necessary, she blasted reporters for writing primarily about “sexy subjects.”
She was the first first lady to testify before a Senate subcommittee since Eleanor Roosevelt, in her role as honorary head of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.
In 2007, she returned to the nation’s capital to advocate for better mental health coverage in the United States legislative branch, telling lawmakers, “We’ve been working on this for so long, it finally seems to be in reach.”
She claims that during her husband’s runs for governor of Georgia, she became interested in mental health.
“I used to come home and say to Jimmy, ‘Why are people telling me their problems?’ And he said, ‘Because you may be the only person they’ll ever see who may be close to someone who can help them,’” she explained.
Rosalynn Carter appeared more distraught than her husband after Ronald Reagan won the election in 1980.
Although she and her husband had lived the majority of their lives in Plains, Georgia (a small town near Atlanta), she at first showed little enthusiasm about going back.
“I was hesitant, not at all sure that I could be happy here after the dazzle of the White House and the years of stimulating political battles,” she wrote in her 1984 autobiography, “First Lady from Plains.” But “we slowly rediscovered the satisfaction of a life we had left long before.”
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter continued their public service after leaving the White House by establishing The Carter Center in Atlanta.
She led fundraising efforts to support programs for the mentally ill and the homeless, and she chaired the center’s annual symposium on mental health issues.
She has also penned a book about the difficulties of caring for a sick or elderly family, titled “Helping Yourself Help Others,” and a follow-up titled “Helping Someone With Mental Illness.”
The Carters frequently traveled abroad to aid those in need, advocating public health and democracy in countries where they helped construct Habitat for Humanity homes.
“I get tired,” she said of her travels. “But something so wonderful always happens. To go to a village where they have Guinea worm and go back a year or two later and there’s no Guinea worm, I mean the people dance and sing — it’s so wonderful.”
In 2015, doctors found four tiny tumors on Jimmy Carter’s brain. His family thought he just had weeks to live. He was given an immunosuppressant, and his doctors later reported that they had detected no further evidence of malignancy. However, she admitted she was at a loss for action when they initially heard the news.
“I depend on him when I have questions, when I’m writing speeches, anything, I consult with him,” she said.
Several years later, when Carter was 94 and underwent hip replacement surgery and had to relearn how to walk, she was there to help.
She was by his side earlier this year when, following multiple hospitalizations, he made the decision to forego additional medical measures and begin terminal care.
Jimmy Carter is the longest-lived U.S. president. After Bess Truman’s death at age 97, Rosalynn Carter became the second-longest-living first lady in American history.
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, the eldest of four children, was born on August 18, 1927, in Plains. After her father’s untimely death, she and her siblings were largely responsible for their upbringing while their mother worked part-time.
She helped support the family by working at a beauty salon after school. She once commented, “We were very poor and worked hard,” yet she persevered academically anyhow, eventually becoming the valedictorian of her high school class.
The brother of one of her closest friends quickly became her major love interest. Rosalynn and Jimmy had known one other their entire lives; in fact, Jimmy’s mother, a nurse named Lillian Carter, had delivered Rosalynn. However, when Jimmy was a senior in high school, he enlisted in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, leaving Rosalynn behind.
Jimmy announced to his mother after a blind date, “That’s the girl I want to marry.”
They tied the knot in 1946 after each had recently completed their respective degrees at Georgia Southwestern College and the United States Naval Academy.
Their boys were born where Jimmy Carter was stationed: John William (Jack) in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1947; James Earl III (Chip) in Honolulu in 1950; and Donnel Jeffery (Jeff) in New London, Connecticut, in 1952. Amy was born in Plains in 1967. By that time, Carter had worked his way up to the position of state senator.
Rosalynn’s first opportunity to travel the world came thanks to the Navy. After his father, James Earl Sr., passed away in 1953, Jimmy Carter took over the family farm in Plains without informing his wife. There, she helped out with the books and weighed fertilizer trucks beside him in the daily operations.
“We developed a partnership when we were working in the farm supply business,” Rosalynn Carter recalled with pride in a 2021 interview with The Associated Press. “I knew more on paper about the business than he did. He would take my advice about things.”
At the height of the Carters’ political power, Lillian Carter said of her daughter-in-law: “She can do anything in the world with Jimmy, and she’s the only one. He listens to her.”
Please SHARE this devastating news with Family and Friends!