Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter dies at 96

Remembering a Trailblazer,The Legacy of Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter

Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former president Jimmy Carter, died Sunday at 96 at the couple’s home in the southern state of Georgia, their nonprofit organization announced.

Rosalynn Carter, born on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, grew up in a modest yet close-knit family. Her early life experiences laid the foundation for the compassionate and empathetic leader she would become. In 1946, she married Jimmy Carter, a young naval officer, and the couple embarked on a journey that would lead them to the pinnacle of American politics.

As First Lady from 1977 to 1981, Rosalynn Carter distinguished herself through her unwavering commitment to advocacy and humanitarian efforts. She used her platform to address pressing social issues, focusing particularly on mental health awareness. Her advocacy laid the groundwork for future initiatives, and she played a pivotal role in de-stigmatizing mental health discussions.

Rosalynn Carter’s initiatives extended beyond traditional first lady roles. She actively participated in policy discussions, offering her insights and expertise to shape initiatives that addressed the needs of vulnerable populations. Her genuine concern for the well-being of the American people left an indelible mark on the nation’s conscience.

Rosalynn Carter’s partnership with Jimmy Carter went beyond the ceremonial aspects of the first lady role. She was a trusted advisor and confidante to her husband, contributing significantly to the decision-making processes of the Carter administration. Her intelligence, poise, and dedication made her a formidable force in shaping the policies and direction of the nation during a crucial period.

Throughout her public life, Rosalynn Carter faced challenges with grace and resilience. From navigating the complexities of political life to addressing the needs of the nation, she did so with a quiet strength that endeared her to the American people. Her commitment to public service and advocacy continued long after leaving the White House, leaving an enduring legacy that transcends political affiliations.

One of Rosalynn Carter’s most lasting contributions is her impact on mental health advocacy. Recognizing the importance of addressing mental health issues, she worked tirelessly to bring attention to the often-overlooked challenges faced by individuals and families. The Carter Center, founded by the Carters in 1982, remains a testament to their commitment to advancing mental health research, policy, and treatment on a global scale.

Carter was best known for her work post-White House, as she and her husband championed human rights, democracy, and health issues around the world—all while maintaining a notably humble public image.

She had joined her husband in at-home hospice care on Friday after being diagnosed with dementia in May.

“Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights, passed away Sunday at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96,” the Carter Center said in a statement.

She died peacefully, with family by her side.”

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy 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,” the former Democratic president said.

Throughout Jimmy Carter’s long political career, his wife was at the heart of his campaigns. Once in the White House—from 1977 to 1981—Rosalynn Carter stood out as a first lady intent on being involved in policy.

“She attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, frequently represented the Chief Executive at ceremonial occasions, and served as the president’s personal emissary to Latin American countries,” according to the White House website.

Other White House occupants shared tributes to the former first lady on Sunday.

“Through the rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss, we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter,” President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement, pointing to the Carters’ “deep love” as the “definition of partnership.”

And fellow Democrats, former president Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton, said they were “deeply grateful” for Carter’s service, calling her “a compassionate and committed champion of human dignity.”

Rosalynn Carter was born in the small town of Plains on August 18, 1927, as the first of four children. At 13, her father died, and she worked alongside her mother, who became a dressmaker, to make ends meet.

She met Jimmy Carter in 1945 while she was in college, and he was on leave from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

They married in 1946 and hold several longevity records in US politics: the longest-wed presidential couple and, for 99-year-old Jimmy Carter, the oldest living US president.

Former first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump paid tribute to Carter’s legacy.

“When our family was in the White House, every so often, Rosalynn would join me for lunch, offering a few words of advice and always—always — a helping hand,” Obama said.

“We will always remember her servant’s heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country,” Trump said.

According to the Carter Center, the former first lady is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, after losing a grandson in 2015.

“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary first lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” the Carters’ son Chip Carter said in the Center’s statement.

“She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”

The family announced in February this year that Jimmy Carter had entered hospice care in Plains — at the same modest house he and Rosalynn have lived in since the 1960s.

The one-term Democratic president has since surprised many by welcoming visitors, receiving news about the Carter Center’s humanitarian work and frequently enjoying ice cream, according to his family.

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