Rosalynn Carter, Former US first lady, dies at 96

Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, recognized for her significant role in championing mental health causes during her husband President Jimmy Carter’s administration, passed away at the age of 96, as announced by the Carter Center. President Carter referred to her as “an extension of myself.” Rosalynn Carter, known as “the Steel Magnolia” for her resilience and seemingly reserved demeanor, recently entered hospice care at her home in Plains, Georgia, and she died with her family by her side. The Carters, married in 1946, held the distinction of being the longest-married US presidential couple. Rosalynn Carter continued to actively participate in various initiatives, including the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity, even after Jimmy Carter’s presidency. In May, her family disclosed that she had dementia, and in February, Jimmy Carter, aged 99, chose hospice care after declining additional medical treatment.

Rosalynn Carter

In a statement, the former president expressed, “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.” Initially perceived as unassuming and quiet in Washington, Rosalynn Carter later became an eloquent speaker, activist, and campaigner, notably advocating for mental health awareness—a cause she continued to champion long after her tenure in the White House.

“The best thing I ever did was marry Rosalynn,” Jimmy Carter shared with C-SPAN in 2015, underscoring the profound impact of his marriage to Rosalynn Carter on his life. Before Jimmy Carter’s election as president in 1976, Rosalynn, initially not widely known beyond Georgia, where her husband transitioned from a peanut farmer to governor, became a prominent figure. Although Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, the Carters operated as a formidable team in Washington, with the president considering her “an extension of myself” and “my closest adviser.” Rosalynn frequently attended cabinet meetings and political strategy discussions, offering valuable insights.

During the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, aimed at ensuring equal treatment of women under the law, Rosalynn actively participated. In the midst of the Iran hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid, Rosalynn played a pivotal role by undertaking a 44-day tour, delivering speeches and engaging with crowds to support her husband. While her efforts contributed to Carter’s victory in the 1980 primaries against Ted Kennedy, he ultimately lost the election to Reagan. Joe Biden, who served as a senator during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, along with his wife, Jill, expressed admiration for Rosalynn Carter, describing her as someone who “walked her own path, inspiring a nation along the way.”