ATLANTA (AP) – Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who was close to Jimmy Carter during his first term as president and then for four decades as a global humanitarian, has died at the age of 96. .
carter center He said she suffered from dementia and died on Sunday after months of declining health. She “passed away peacefully surrounded by her family” at her home in rural Plains, Georgia, at 2:10 p.m., according to her statement.
“Rosalyn has been my equal partner in everything I have accomplished,” the former president said in a statement. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalyn existed in this world, I always knew someone would love and support me.”
President Joe Biden called the Carters “a wonderful family that has brought so much blessing to the president.”
“He had great integrity, and he still does. And so did she,” Biden told reporters while boarding Air Force One Sunday night after an event in Norfolk, Virginia. He told the group. “God bless them.” Biden said he spoke with the family and was told Jimmy Carter was surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
The White House later released a joint statement from the president and first lady Jill Biden, calling Carter an inspiration to the nation. “She was a champion of equal rights and opportunities for women and girls. A champion of mental health and wellness for all. And for our children, our elderly loved ones, and people with disabilities. We are also supporters of the people who feed these people, often invisible and unpaid,” the statement added.
The Carters have been married for more than 77 years and have a relationship they both describe as a “perfect partnership.” Unlike many people, past first ladies, Rosalyn attended cabinet meetings, spoke out on controversial issues, and traveled abroad on her husband’s behalf. President Carter’s aides sometimes informally referred to her as his “co-president.”
“Rosalyn is my best friend…a perfect extension of me and probably the most influential person in my life,” Jimmy Carter told aides during his time in the White House. 1977-1981.
The former president, now 99, remains at the couple’s home in Plains after entering hospice care himself in February.
Rosalynn Carter prided herself on being a loyal, caring, politically astute and activist first lady, and no one doubted her behind-the-scenes influence. . Once her role in the highly publicized cabinet reshuffle became known, she was forced to make a public declaration. “I don’t run the government.”
Many presidential aides claimed that her political instincts were better than her husband’s and often sought her support before discussing projects with the president. Her iron will contrasted with her ostensibly shy demeanor and soft Southern accent, prompting Washington reporters to call her “Magnolia of Steel.”
In her later years, the Carters said that Rosalyn was the more political of the two. After Jimmy Carter’s landslide defeat in 1980, it was she, not the former president, who engineered his incredible comeback, but years later, she and her partner in Washington He confessed that he missed his life.
Jimmy Carter trusted her so much that in 1977, just a few months into his term, she told dictators she meant what she said about denying military aid and other support to human rights abusers. She was sent on a mission to Latin America to spread the word.
She also had strong feelings about the Carter Whitehouse style. Although Rosalyn allowed American wine, the Carter family did not serve strong liquor at public events. There were fewer ballroom dancing nights and more square dances and picnics.
Throughout her husband’s political career, she chose mental health and elderly issues as her signature policy focus. When the news media did not cover these efforts as much as she believed they were warranted, she criticized reporters for only writing about “sexy topics.”
As chair emeritus of the President’s Committee on Mental Health, she once testified before a Senate subcommittee and became the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to address a Congressional panel. She returned to Washington in 2007 to press Congress to improve mental health coverage, saying, “We’ve been working on this problem for a long time, and it looks like we’re finally within reach.”
She said she developed an interest in mental health during her husband’s Georgia gubernatorial campaign.
“When I got home I used to say to Jimmy, “Why do people tell me their problems?” And he said, “Because they’re close to someone who can help them.” Because you might be the only person who might see them,” she explained.
After Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election, Rosalynn Carter looked decidedly more devastated than her husband. She initially had little interest in returning to the small town on the Plains where they were born, married, and spent most of her life.
“I was hesitant. After the glare of the White House and years of exciting political battles, I wasn’t at all sure that I would be happy here,” she wrote in her 1984 autobiography, From the Plains. “The First Lady Comes,” he wrote. However, “we slowly rediscovered a sense of satisfaction in life that had left us long ago.”
After leaving Washington, Jimmy and Rosalynn co-founded the Carter Center in Atlanta to continue their work. She chaired the center’s annual symposium on mental health issues, which raised funds for efforts to support the mentally ill and the homeless. She also wrote “Helping Yourself, Helping Others” and its sequel “Helping People with Mental Illness,” about the challenges of caring for elderly or sick relatives. .
The Carters frequently left home on humanitarian missions, building homes for Habitat for Humanity and promoting public health and democracy throughout the developing world.
“It’s tiring,” she said of the trip. “But something so wonderful happens all the time. You go to a village where there’s a Guinea worm, and you come back a year or two later and there’s no Guinea worm, and people are dancing and singing. That’s so wonderful. is.”
In 2015, Jimmy Carter’s doctors discovered four small tumors in his brain. The Carters feared he had weeks to live. He was treated with drugs to boost his immune system, and his doctors later announced that there were no remaining signs of cancer. But when she first heard the news, she said, she didn’t know what she would do.
“When I have questions, when I want to write a speech, I rely on him for everything,” she said.
Years later, when Carter had a hip replacement at age 94 and had to learn to walk again, she helped him recover. And earlier this year, she was with him when he decided to forego further medical intervention and begin end-of-life care after a series of hospitalizations.
Jimmy Carter is the longest-living US president. Rosalynn Carter was the second-oldest American first lady, after Bess Truman, who died at the age of 97.
Eleanor Rosalyn Smith was born on August 18, 1927 in Plains, the eldest of four children. Her father died when she was young, so she assumed many of the responsibilities of caring for her siblings while her mother went to work part-time.
She also worked at a hair salon after school to contribute to the family income. “We were very poor, so we worked hard,” she once said, but she continued her studies and graduated from high school as valedictorian.
She quickly fell in love with the younger brother of one of her best friends. Jimmy and Rosalyn had known each other all their lives. Baby Rosalynn was delivered by Jimmy’s mother, nurse Lillian Carter. However, Jimmy attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, while she was still in high school.
After the blind date, Jimmy said to his mother, “That’s the girl I want to marry.” They married in 1946, shortly after Rosalyn graduated from Annapolis and Rosalyn graduated from Georgia Southwestern University.
Their sons were born where Jimmy Carter was stationed. John William (Jack) was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1947. James Earl III (Chip) of Honolulu in 1950; Amy was born in Plains in 1967. By then, Carter was a state senator.
Life in the Navy gave Rosalyn her first opportunity to see the world. Upon the death of Carter’s father, James Earl Sr., in 1953, Jimmy Carter, without consulting his wife, decided to move his family back to the Plains and take over his family’s farm there. There, she worked with him on day-to-day operations, doing bookkeeping and weighing fertilizer trucks.
“We started our partnership when we were in the produce supply business,” Rosalynn Carter proudly recalled in a 2021 interview with The Associated Press. “I knew more about this business on paper than he did. He was open to my advice on things.”
At the height of the Carter family’s political power, Lillian Carter said of her daughter-in-law: He listens to her. ”
ritual Events celebrating the life of Rosalynn Carter will be held after the Thanksgiving holiday in Atlanta and Sumter County, Georgia, the Carter Center announced Sunday evening.
The requiem ceremony, which will be held on November 27 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, is open to the public. The funeral and burial will be held privately on November 29, but the service will be broadcast on television and streamed online, the center said.