Former First Lady Roslynn Carter died at her home in Georgia at the age of 96 shortly after entering hospice care.
Carter was the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, who is currently 99 years old and who has been in hospice care since February. The Carters, who celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in July, are the nation’s longest-married first couple.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” said President Carter in the statement released by the Carter Center on Nov. 19.
“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,” he added.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on Aug. 18, 1927, Mrs. Carter was born in Plains, Georgia. She graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946. That same year, she married Mr. Carter shortly after he graduated from the United States Naval Academy. The couple has four children – Jack, Jeff, Chip, and Amy. They also have 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Once her husband’s naval service was completed, the couple returned to Georgia where she kept the books for the family business. President Carter initially won a seat in the state Senate in 1962 and was ultimately elected governor in 1970.
“As Georgia’s First Lady, Mrs. Carter led a passionate fight against the stigma of mental illnesses and worked to overhaul the state’s mental health care system,” noted the Carter Center in her biography.
While First Lady, Mrs. Carter focused on creating what she described as a “more caring society.”
“Early in 1977, barred by statute from being chair of the newly established President’s Commission on Mental Health, Mrs. Carter became its honorary chair,” added the Carter Center. “In this capacity, she held hearings across the country, testified before Congress, and spearheaded passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. She continued her work in the field of mental health throughout her life.”
Mrs. Carter was also an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, which was never ratified.
“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,” said her son Chip in a statement.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama said Mrs. Carter’s life “is a reminder that no matter who we are, our legacies are best measured not in awards or accolades, but in the lives we touch.”
“Guided by her abiding faith and her commitment to service, Mrs. Carter used her platform in profoundly meaningful ways. Her groundbreaking work to combat the stigma faced by those struggling with their mental health brought light to so many suffering in silence,” wrote Obama in a post on X. “She reminded me to make the role of First Lady my own, just like she did. I’ll always remain grateful for her support and her generosity.”
Former President Donald Trump said he and his wife, Melania, were mourning Carter’s passing. He called her a “devoted First Lady, a great humanitarian, a champion of mental health, a beloved wife.”
“Over a life span of nearly a century, Rosalynn Carter earned the administration and gratitude of our entire nation,” wrote Trump in a message on Truth Social.
Mrs. Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May. She entered hospice care on Nov. 17, approximately 9 months after her husband elected to end his medical care to spend time with their family.