Rosalynn Carter, the former First Lady of the United States and wife of ex-President Jimmy Carter, passed away at the age of 96, as confirmed by The Carter Center in a statement. Her death occurred peacefully, surrounded by her family. Earlier in the week, it was reported that she had entered hospice care in Georgia, spending time with her 99-year-old husband, who had been in hospice care since February.
Mrs. Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May. The couple, known as the longest-married first couple, celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in July. In a statement, President Carter expressed, “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.”
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, she married Jimmy Carter on July 7, 1946, and they had four children. Their son, Chip, described her as a loving mother, extraordinary first lady, and “a great humanitarian in her own right.” Mrs. Carter is survived by 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, having lost a grandson in 2015.
Throughout her husband’s political career, Mrs. Carter focused on raising mental health awareness and reducing the stigma associated with mental illnesses. As the first lady of Georgia, she served on a governor’s commission to improve mental health services. As U.S. First Lady, she became honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, instrumental in the passage of a 1980 act that funded local mental health centers.
After leaving Washington, the Carters founded the Carter Center in 1982, where Mrs. Carter continued her advocacy for mental health, early childhood immunization, and other humanitarian causes. They were also prominent figures in the Habitat for Humanity charity, aiding in building homes for families in need. In 2002, they received the Nobel Peace Prize for their humanitarian work.
US President Joe Biden and former First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to Mrs. Carter, with President Biden expressing gratitude on behalf of the nation. Michelle Obama recalled Mrs. Carter’s support and generosity as the First Lady. Former President George W Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush remembered Mrs. Carter as “a woman of dignity and strength” who leaves an important legacy in destigmatizing mental health.