Wagswoofs – On Sunday, the Carter Center announced that Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady, had passed away at the age of 96.
According to the Carter Center, she passed away “peacefully, surrounded by her family” at 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 19th, at her residence in Plains, Georgia.
In a heartfelt statement, former President Jimmy Carter expressed how his beloved wife Rosalynn was not only his partner but his equal in every achievement he ever made. He acknowledged how she provided him with wise guidance and encouragement whenever he needed it the most. For him, having Rosalynn in his life meant having someone who loved and supported him unconditionally.
In May, the family of the former first lady announced that she had been diagnosed with dementia and was living at home in Plains, Georgia, with her husband. Recently, they updated the public that she had transitioned to receiving home hospice care.
In a tribute to Rosalynn Carter, President Biden and first lady Jill Biden expressed their admiration for her role in inspiring not just the nation, but the world. The statement acknowledged the remarkable accomplishments of Rosalynn’s life as First Lady of Georgia and the United States. Her tireless efforts towards addressing the most pressing social issues of our time, including the fight for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls, advocating for mental health and wellness, and supporting caregivers of children, aging loved ones, and people with disabilities, have left a lasting impact on society.
Rosalynn Carter, a trusted adviser and confidante to her husband, was actively involved in the White House, advocating for causes such as mental health research. Despite growing up as a small-town girl with no aspirations for public life, she recognized the influence of political office and its capacity for global transformation.
The partnership between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter was one of a kind in the history of the United States presidency. While other first ladies provided their husbands with private advice, the Carters’ relationship was much deeper. Rosalynn Carter was never afraid to express her opinions to her husband, and he always valued her counsel. In fact, she even attended Cabinet meetings, which had never been done before. Despite the criticism she faced for her unprecedented role, she remained steadfast in her commitment to her husband and their shared vision for the country.
In an interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer back in October 1980, she shared the valuable lesson she learned from Jimmy Carter – to always do your best and not be bothered by criticisms. She emphasized that criticisms will come regardless of what you do or don’t do. Even if she just poured tea and played hostess, she would still be criticized. According to her, having confidence is key to overcoming criticisms and moving forward.
Rosalynn Smith, the eldest of four siblings, was born on August 18, 1927, in Plains. At the age of 18, she began dating Jimmy Carter.
During an interview with CBS News’ Ed Rabel, she shared a memory of her mother’s reaction after her first date with Jimmy. “You know I like Jimmy, he has the nicest smile,” her mother had remarked. It seems that Jimmy’s charming smile had captured the hearts of not just his date, but her mother as well.
In 1946, the couple tied the knot a year after. Jimmy Carter was serving in the Navy, and his profession allowed them to travel to different parts of the world. Interestingly, their three sons were each born in a different location. Rosalynn Carter cherished the lifestyle and was reluctant to go back to her small town.
During an interview with Rabel, she shared that she was raising three young children on her own and felt the need to be independent. However, she also felt that if she returned home, she would have the support and guidance of both her and Jimmy’s mothers.
In 1953, Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, moved back to Plains to take over the family peanut business following the death of Jimmy’s father. However, the couple had grander aspirations. In 1970, Jimmy Carter was elected governor of Georgia, and Rosalynn tirelessly campaigned alongside him as well as on her own.
During the 1976 presidential campaign, Rosalynn Carter played an essential role as her husband’s surrogate in areas that he couldn’t reach. They frequently met in Plains to share their findings and insights. At this point, they had already had their fourth child, Amy, who often accompanied them on the campaign trail.
According to Rosalynn Carter, whenever they returned home, they enjoyed taking a stroll in the fields on their farm. This gave them the perfect opportunity to catch up and chat for a couple of hours. During their walks, they discussed various topics such as the campaign, their observations, and their thoughts on how things were progressing. Rosalynn was able to share her impressions of different states, and they both exchanged ideas on how they wanted things to go.
Following their move into the White House, she maintained her position as a valuable sounding board for her husband and utilized her role as the first lady to raise awareness about mental illness, a cause that she had been championing for a long time. As an honorary chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, she actively worked towards promoting better understanding of mental health issues.
As the first lady, she maintained her travels and even acted as the president’s emissary during her visit to Latin America. She acknowledged the rarity of her role with a smile.
In 1977, she stated with a chuckle that she was excited to share all the information she had with Jimmy and looked forward to consulting with him frequently.
In 1980, following their departure from Washington, the Carters embarked upon the next chapter of their lives with their characteristic energy. They established the Carter Center in Atlanta, a center that advocates for peace and conflict resolution. Their initiatives ranged from assisting in the construction of new homes for impoverished individuals through Habitat for Humanity in the United States to traveling to various corners of the world to promote peace.
In 1999, President Clinton honored the Carters with the Medal of Freedom. The couple’s partnership, which holds the record for the longest-lasting presidential marriage in the country’s history, spanned over 75 years. They commemorated their 77th wedding anniversary on July 7, 2023.
During the funeral of her close friend and fellow first lady Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter delivered a speech on July 12, 2011, where she depicted Ford in a way that could easily describe herself as well. Carter referred to Ford as someone who was willing to shake things up and do things differently than they had been done before. She admired Ford’s courage and grace in fighting against fear, stigma, and prejudice wherever she encountered it.