Plains, Georgia –
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has been receiving hospice care at her home in Plains, Georgia, and will join former President Jimmy Carter, who has been receiving end-of-life care since February, her family announced Friday.
The Carter family said they are “grateful for the outpouring of love and support,” but asked for privacy. The Carters have been married for 77 years, making them the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history.
Her family announced earlier this year that the 96-year-old former first lady was suffering from dementia. The former president, now 99, entered hospice care at his home in February, but he remains vigilant, people close to him said.
The couple were together throughout Jimmy Carter’s rise from a farm in Georgia to his election as president in 1976. After the president’s defeat in 1980, the couple founded the Carter Center in Atlanta as a global center for defending human rights, democracy, and public health.
“I loved politics,” Rosalynn Carter told The Associated Press in 2021. Campaigning on behalf of her husband was “the best time” and the couple described it as a “perfect partnership”.
Long after leaving the White House, Jimmy Carter said, “The best thing that ever happened to me was when she asked me to marry her.”
The family’s announcement Friday brought fresh tributes.
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock called the former first lady “a remarkable woman of great faith” and said, “Her contributions to Georgia and our country are part of an incredible legacy.” said.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has worked with the Carters on public health efforts for decades, wrote on Twitter: “Thinking of the former First Lady and the President tonight. I am grateful,” he wrote. Their lifelong dedication to making the world a tougher, fairer, and healthier place for everyone. ”
Jason Carter, the couple’s grandson, said in a recent interview that his grandparents celebrated longevity, family and love in the same small Georgia town where they were born, and are enjoying their “final chapter” together at home. he said.
“The word love certainly defines not only their personal relationships, but also how they approach the world,” said the current director of the Carter Center’s board of trustees. said Jason Carter, chairman of the committee.
Beyond her role as the president’s top advisor, Rosalynn Carter has become one of the world’s leading advocates for improving mental health care and the role of caregivers in American life. She helped pass important health care legislation by the Carter administration during her husband’s term, and continued to focus on more impactful ways to report on mental health issues after her time in the White House. She continued her work by establishing a fellowship for journalists.
She has long emphasized the need to reduce stigma against people suffering from mental health conditions. Decades after leaving the White House, she testified on Capitol Hill, pleading with Congress to make treatment and insurance for mental health conditions equal to other conditions in the U.S. health care system. She has traveled the world helping developing countries combat the lack of mental health resources.
“I want people to know what I know. Thanks to research and what we know about the brain, today we can effectively diagnose and treat mental illnesses, and we can help people with these illnesses. “It means that the vast majority of people recover and are able to live fulfilling lives…going to school, working, raising families, and becoming productive citizens in their communities,” she said.
In the late 1970s, at the height of the Carter family’s political power, Washington reporters dubbed Rosalynn Carter “Steel Magnolia.” This reflects the quiet grace typical of Southern political wives of her time and her strong core that elevated her to the power of her husband. In her own right.
“She knew what she wanted to accomplish,” said Kathy Cade, Rosalynn Carter’s White House adviser.
To expand her role as first lady, she worked on her own initiative, in her office in the East Wing, with her own staff. She also huddled with the president’s advisers and sat in on top-level meetings, raising eyebrows in Washington’s establishment.
“She didn’t say anything at the cabinet meeting, but she wanted to make sure she had enough information to give her husband the right advice,” said Jonathan Alter, Carter’s biographer.
Alter believes Rosalynn Carter’s only peers as influential first ladies are Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, but Carter’s partnership includes Roosevelt and Clinton. Carter said their partnership was more seamless because it lacked infidelity and personal drama.
That bond also included a sense of friendly competition and humor. When his wife was 91 years old, Jimmy Carter wisely said, “I never thought I’d marry someone this old.”
They often competed to finish the next book or tried to beat their opponents at tennis, skiing, and other competitions.
Rosalynn Carter was a central figure in her husband’s political campaign, which began with his first election to the state Senate in 1962.
“At first, I was writing letters to people. He would go out and then I would write letters to them,” she told The Associated Press. “But then it became a full-time job for me, working to help him get elected.”
Her first solo campaign was in 1966 when she ran for Jimmy Carter for governor. Although she was nervous at first, she warmed to the role and ultimately displayed what White House adviser Stuart Eisenstat described as “unusual political instincts.”
In the White House, it was Rosalynn Carter who urged her husband to think more about the 1980 election as he set his priorities and to discuss how his decisions would affect the media. The first lady was on the trail of her re-election campaign as Jimmy Carter was in Washington working from all angles to free American hostages in Iran.
“Last time I ran for office, I campaigned hard every day,” she told The Associated Press.
Her focus on mental health and stigma reduction dates back to her husband’s campaign in Georgia.
Voters “will be waiting patiently” to talk about family struggles, she once wrote. After Rosalynn Carter heard a story about a night factory worker caring for a sick child, she decided to bring the issue to her candidate’s attention. That day, she showed up unannounced at her husband’s gathering and stood in line to shake his hand like everyone else.