Former first lady Rosalynn Carter dies at 96

The wife of former President Jimmy Carter passed away at her home in Plains, Ga. According to a statement from The Carter Center: "She died peacefully, with family by her side."

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday at her home in Plains, Ga., at the age of 96. According to a statement from the Carter Center: "She died peacefully, with family by her side."

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights, passed away Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:10 p.m. at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. She died peacefully, with family by her side.

The Carter Center reported that the wife of former President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) had entered hospice care at her residence on Friday.

Former President Carter made a statement after the death of his wife, honoring the woman who was his life partner for 77 years and with whom shared four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren:

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.

Her work as first lady of Georgia and the United States

The former first lady was born on Aug. 18, 1927 in Plains, Ga., with the name with the name Eleanor Rosalynn Smith. She was the eldest of four. At the age of 13, her father died, which led her to take on the role of supporting her mother, working from a young age and helping to raise her younger siblings.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus. At the end of her first year of college, she began dating Jimmy Carter, who was attending the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

The former president stated in the past, "When I first had a date with her, the next morning I told my mother, that was the girl I wanted to marry." They were married in July 1946 and became the longest-married presidential couple in the nation's history.

As first lady of Georgia and later of the nation, Carter worked to create and shape what she considered to be "a more caring society," according to her Carter Center biography.

The Carter Center and the Carters' last public appearance

The Carter Center is a non-profit organization founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn in 1982, after his presidential term. One of the center's goals is to raise awareness about mental health problems, one of the issues that Rosalynn Carter cared most about:

Mrs. Carter has been the nation's leading mental health advocate for much of her life. First in the Georgia Governor's Mansion, then in the White House, and later at The Carter Center, she urged improved access to care and decreased stigma about issues surrounding mental health.

Above all, she devoted herself to improving treatment and services for those coping with mental health conditions, a cause she adopted when her husband was governor and that remained her priority for the rest of her life.

The last time the couple was seen in public was in September at the Plains Peanut Festival in their hometown. A video shared by The Carter Center on X, formerly Twitter, showed the couple aboard a van traveling through the streets full of people enjoying the celebration.

Rosalynn Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May 2023. In February, it was revealed that the former president had entered hospice care at his residence after a series of hospital visits. In an interview in September, Jason Carter, the Carters' grandson, acknowledged that his grandparents were "coming to the end" but assured that they remained together and in love:

They are coming to the end, of course, at this time in their lives. But they are at peace, they are together, they're at home, they're in love. And you don't get much more than that, and they don't expect more. ... It's a true blessing for all of us to have had this much time with him.

Reactions to Rosalynn Carter's death

Many politicians and personalities reacted to the death of the former first lady by honoring her legacy and sending messages of love and strength to the entire Carter family. Among them were President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, and former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush.