Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Passes Away at 96

Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady and wife of the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, passed away peacefully at her home on Sunday at the age of 96. Her family was by her side during her final moments, according to a statement from the Carter Center. The former president expressed his deep sorrow, stating that Rosalynn was his equal partner in all his accomplishments and provided him with wise guidance and encouragement throughout their life together.

Rosalynn Carter’s family had announced in May 2023 that she had been diagnosed with dementia. She later joined her husband in hospice care at their home in Plains, Georgia, in November. Her passing has drawn tributes from across the nation, including from President Joe Biden, who praised her for walking her own path and inspiring the nation and the world.

Rosalynn Carter was known for her advocacy work, particularly in the areas of mental health and women’s rights. She was also a strong supporter of caregivers, often the unseen and uncompensated individuals caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush also paid tribute to Rosalynn Carter, acknowledging her dignity, strength, and advocacy work, particularly in the area of mental health.

Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, Rosalynn Carter was the eldest of four children. After her father’s death from leukemia when she was 13, her mother worked as a dressmaker to support the family. Despite these challenges, Rosalynn Carter continued her education, graduating from high school and later from Georgia Southwestern College.

Rosalynn Carter married Jimmy Carter, a family friend, in 1946. After living in several cities due to Jimmy’s career in the Navy, they returned to Plains in 1953 following the death of Jimmy’s father. They took over the family peanut farm, with Rosalynn managing the accounts. She was instrumental in Jimmy’s political campaigns, including his successful bid for the presidency in 1977.

As first lady, Rosalynn Carter was a strong presence in the White House, expanding the role of the first lady by working out of her own office on her own initiatives. She also attended top-level meetings with the president’s advisers, a move that raised eyebrows among Washington’s elite. Her advocacy work continued after leaving the White House in 1981, including founding the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers in 1987.

Rosalynn Carter entered hospice care at her home in Plains on November 17, 2023, just nine months after her husband did the same. Their grandson, Jason Carter, said the couple were spending time with each other and their family.