Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady and devoted advocate for housing and mental health, passed away on Sunday, November 19, at the age of 96, at her residence in Plains, Georgia, surrounded by her family, as announced by the Carter Center.
Former President Jimmy Carter expressed his deep sorrow, stating, “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.”
Chip Carter, their son, also paid tribute, highlighting his mother’s role as a loving mother, extraordinary First Lady, and a great humanitarian. He acknowledged her impactful life of service and compassion, influencing mental health care and caregiving resources for many.
In May, it was revealed that Rosalynn had been diagnosed with dementia following Jimmy’s decision to enter hospice care at their home. The Carter Center emphasized Rosalynn’s longstanding commitment to mental health advocacy, hoping that sharing their family’s journey would foster important conversations nationwide.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, she grew up facing poverty and tragedy, with her father’s death when she was 13. Despite challenges, she supported her family, pursued education, and graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946.
Rosalynn and Jimmy, both natives of Plains, married in 1946. Their journey involved various moves due to Jimmy’s Naval career, raising three sons and later welcoming a daughter, Amy. The Carters returned to Plains, where they managed the family businesses, including a peanut farm, and actively championed school desegregation.
Rosalynn played a crucial role in Jimmy’s political career, supporting his campaigns and becoming the first lady of Georgia. Her dedication to mental health issues led to a significant overhaul of the state’s mental health system.
During Jimmy’s presidency, Rosalynn continued her active involvement, sitting in on cabinet meetings, serving as a presidential emissary, and advocating for mental health. After the 1980 election, the Carters launched the Carter Center, engaging in humanitarian efforts worldwide and continuing their mental health advocacy.
Rosalynn’s impact extended beyond her role as the first lady, reshaping it by establishing the first official East Wing office. Despite her monumental contributions, she humbly expressed a hope for a legacy beyond her position. Her humanitarian work, including efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, brought her profound joy in witnessing positive change in people’s lives.