Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a stalwart advocate for mental health care and a pivotal figure in her husband’s political career, passed away on Sunday at her home in Plains, Georgia.
She was 96. The Carter Center, the organization founded by the Carters, confirmed her death and revealed that she had entered hospice care at home on Friday.
First Lady, Humanitarian, and Political Partner
In a poignant statement, former President Jimmy Carter paid tribute to his wife, emphasizing their partnership in every accomplishment. He stated, “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. 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.”
Rosalynn Carter was renowned for her political acumen, praised for her electoral instincts, down-to-earth appeal, and significant contributions to the White House, including her role as an envoy to Latin America.
Beyond her political involvement, she dedicated herself to various social causes throughout her public life, advocating for health care resources, human rights, social justice, and the well-being of the elderly.
Remembering Rosalynn Carter
In particular, her advocacy for mental health was groundbreaking. Speaking at a mental health symposium in 2003, Carter expressed the astonishing progress made in the field, saying, “Twenty-five years ago, we did not dream that people might someday be able actually to recover from mental illnesses. Today it is a very real possibility.”
Despite the announcement of her dementia diagnosis by the Carter Center in late May, Rosalynn Carter continued to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying the spring in Plains and cherished visits with loved ones.
The Carters’ enduring marriage, recognized as the longest in U.S. presidential history, was marked by their commitment to humanitarian work post-White House.
They were closely associated with Habitat for Humanity, earning accolades for their tireless advocacy, fundraising efforts, and hands-on construction volunteerism.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in Plains, Georgia, in 1927, Rosalynn faced early challenges with the death of her father at the age of 13. Despite assuming additional responsibilities alongside her mother, she completed high school and attended Georgia Southwestern College.
It was during her freshman year in 1945 that she went on a fateful date with Jimmy Carter, a meeting that would shape both their lives in the years to come.