Rosalynn Carter, Former U.S. First Lady and Humanitarian, Passes Away at 96

Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter. (Source: Associated Press)

Rosalynn Carter, the influential former First Lady of the United States and lifelong partner in both marriage and humanitarian work to President Jimmy Carter, has died at 96. Her demise was announced by The Carter Center, attributing it to a prolonged battle with dementia and declining health.

A Life of Partnership and Advocacy

Rosalynn Carter, born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, was more than just a spouse to the 39th President of the United States. The Carters’ marriage, spanning over 77 years, was marked by a deep partnership and mutual respect. President Carter, in a statement, reflected on this bond, saying, “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it.”

Breaking the Mold of Traditional First Lady Roles

Rosalynn Carter’s tenure as First Lady was distinguished by her active involvement in policy and politics, a deviation from the traditional roles held by her predecessors. She was notably present in Cabinet meetings, addressed controversial issues, and even represented the U.S. on foreign trips. Her influence was so significant that she was sometimes referred to as “co-president” by President Carter’s aides.

Jimmy Carter, in his statement, encapsulated this sentiment: “Rosalynn is my best friend… the perfect extension of me, probably the most influential person in my life.” This was further evidenced by her role in a notable Cabinet shakeup and her involvement in Latin American diplomacy.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife former first lady Rosalynn Carter sit together during a reception to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Plains, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)

A Champion for Mental Health and the Elderly

Rosalynn Carter’s legacy also includes her advocacy for mental health and the elderly. As honorary chairwoman of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, she made history by testifying before a Senate subcommittee, a first since Eleanor Roosevelt. Her commitment to these causes continued long after leaving the White House, with her involvement in The Carter Center and authoring books on caregiving.

A Life Beyond the White House

After their time in Washington, the Carters returned to Plains, Georgia, their birthplace and lifelong home. Here, they rediscovered the satisfaction of a simpler life and co-founded The Carter Center, focusing on global humanitarian efforts. Rosalynn Carter’s dedication to public service never waned, as she continued to participate in various missions, including building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

Remembering a Life of Dignity and Service

Rosalynn Carter’s life was a testament to her resilience, intelligence, and commitment to public service. Her influence extended beyond the political arena into the lives of those she championed for. As the nation mourns her loss, her legacy as a steadfast partner, a pioneering First Lady, and a compassionate humanitarian endures.

Rosalynn Carter is survived by her husband, Jimmy Carter, the longest-lived U.S. president, and their family. Her passing marks the end of an era but leaves behind a rich tapestry of public service and advocacy that will continue to inspire generations to come.