Rosalynn Carter, the beloved former first lady and champion of housing and mental health, gracefully passed away on Sunday, November 19, at the remarkable age of 96. She was surrounded by her loving family at her residence in the heart of Plains, Georgia. The Carter Center tenderly announced her passing, marking the end of a life dedicated to service and compassion.
Former President Jimmy Carter tenderly expressed his deep sense of loss, declaring that Rosalynn was his equal companion throughout all the achievements of his life. He credited her with providing him with wise guidance and unwavering support, ensuring that he always felt loved and encouraged as long as she was in the world.
Their son, Chip Carter, paid tribute to his mother’s profound impact as a nurturing parent, an extraordinary First Lady, and a beacon of humanity. He praised her for her tireless efforts in shaping and transforming mental health care and caregiving resources, leaving a lasting impression on many.
The family’s sorrow was shared with the world, as they grappled with the loss of a woman who had been more than just a wife and mother. Rosalynn’s legacy was one of tireless dedication and profound impact, reaching far beyond the walls of her home in Plains, Georgia. Her role as a leading advocate for mental health issues will long be remembered and cherished.
In May, the world learned that Rosalynn had been diagnosed with dementia, shortly after Jimmy’s health led to his decision to enter hospice care. The Carter Center emphasized Rosalynn’s unwavering commitment to mental health advocacy, aiming to open up vital conversations surrounding mental health nationwide by sharing their family’s journey.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, she faced adversity early in life, grappling with poverty and the tragedy of losing her father at the age of 13. Despite these hardships, she showed extraordinary resilience, providing for her family, pursuing her education, and ultimately graduating from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946.
Rosalynn and Jimmy, both native to Plains, celebrated their marriage in 1946, embarking on a journey that saw them traverse the challenges of Jimmy’s Naval career, raise three sons, and later welcome a daughter, Amy. Returning to Plains, they managed the family businesses, including a peanut farm, and actively championed school desegregation in their community.
Rosalynn played a pivotal role in Jimmy’s political career, supporting his campaigns and eventually becoming the first lady of Georgia. Her advocacy for mental health issues led to a significant transformation of the state’s mental health system, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of many.
Throughout Jimmy’s presidency, Rosalynn remained actively engaged, even sitting in on cabinet meetings, serving as a presidential emissary, and advocating for mental health. Following the 1980 election, the Carters established the Carter Center, engaging in humanitarian efforts worldwide and continuing their unwavering support for mental health advocacy.
Rosalynn’s impact extended beyond her role as the first lady, as she transformed it by establishing the first official East Wing office. Despite her monumental contributions, she maintained a humble spirit and expressed a hope for a legacy that would transcend her position. Her humanitarian work, including her efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, brought her immense joy as she witnessed positive change in the lives of those she touched.
The world mourns the loss of Rosalynn Carter, a woman whose life was a testament to resilience, compassion, and unwavering dedication to the greater good. Her legacy will continue to inspire and guide those who strive to make a difference, leaving a lasting impact on the world.