Rosalyn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 96.
The Carter Center announced the former first lady's death Sunday, two days after she entered a nursing facility at her home in Plains, Georgia. The former first lady leaves behind her husband, four children, 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a legacy of mental health advocacy.
“Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate advocate for mental health, care and women's rights, died Sunday, November 19, at 2:10 p.m. at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. She died peacefully, with her family by her side,” the statement said.
The former president, 99, is also being treated at their home. In the statement he paid tribute to his wife, saying: “Rosalynn has been my equal partner in everything I have ever accomplished.
“He gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalyn was in the world, I always knew that someone loved and supported me.”
The couple's son, Chip Carter, said: “In addition to being a loving mother and an outstanding First Lady, my mother was also a great humanitarian in her own right. Her life of service and compassion was an example to all Americans. He will be greatly missed not only by our family, but by many people who have better mental health care and access to care resources today.”
Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia in May, the Carter Center previously announced. At the time, the Center wrote that she “has been the nation's leading mental health advocate for much of her life.”
Throughout her life, she “urged to improve access to care and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues,” the statement continued.
Consistent with its efforts, the Center said it decided to share the family's news in hopes that transparency would “increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor's offices across the country.”
Rosalynn Smith was born on August 18, 1927 in Plains, Georgia. As the oldest child, Rosalyn helped her mother support the family after her father died at age 13, according to White House records.
Despite her family's hardships, she attended Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, where she met a man who would one day become president after her freshman year.
“She's the girl I want to marry,” Jimmy Carter reportedly told his mother after his first date with the then 17-year-old. A year later, in 1946, they did just that. the couple got married.
The couple had four children: John William Carter, James Earl Carter III, Donnel Jeffrey Carter and Amy Lynn Carter. As Jimmy Carter served in the Navy, the Carters moved around the country—until his father's death in 1953 landed them in Georgia, where he took over the family business: a peanut farm.
Less than a decade later, Jimmy entered the political realm, winning a seat in the Georgia Senate, becoming governor of the state, and then, of course, winning the presidency — all with Rosalyn by his side.
She was often praised for her political chops. The press called her “the steel Magnolia”, referring to her cute personality combined with her fierce inner strength.
Jimmy Carter's White House adviser, Stuart Eisenstadt, said she had “uncanny political instincts,” while her White House adviser Kathy Cade said, “She knew what she wanted to accomplish.
Apparently, her interest in mental health reform was inspired by talking to voters during her husband's campaigns in Georgia. PBS reported that after hearing one particular story about a mill worker who was caring for her mentally ill child, she said to her husband the next day, “I want to know what you're going to do about mental health when you're governor.” Mr Carter reportedly replied: “We're going to have the best mental health system in the country and I'm going to put you in charge of it.”
From 1977 to 1978, he served as Chairman Emeritus of the President's Commission on Mental Health. And after Mr. Carter's defeat in 1980, the couple founded the Carter Center, a foundation dedicated to “human rights and the relief of human suffering.”
Among many mental health initiatives, in 1996 the Center launched the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships in Mental Health Journalism, which aimed to provide journalists with the resources to cover mental health issues while reducing the stigma surrounding the issue.
Many kind words poured in after the news broke that he had entered a hospice.
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock He wrote“First Lady Rosalyn Carter is a remarkable woman of great faith, and her service to Georgia and our country is part of an incredible legacy.”
“Hearing this news, I pray for First Lady Rosalyn Carter, President Jimmy Carter and their entire family,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. He wrote.
First Lady Jill Biden said: “What a blessing they are together surrounded by family and love.”
After leaving the Oval Office, Mr. Carter remarked, “The best thing that ever happened in my life was when he said he was going to marry me.”