Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, died on Sunday at her home in Georgia at the age of 96, according to a statement from the Carter Center. She entered hospice care on Friday.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” her husband said in a statement. “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.”
Mrs. Carter (née Smith) married Jimmy Carter in 1946. She served as first lady of the United States from January 1977 until January 1981. An official tribute site has been set up in her memory at RosalynnCarterTribute.org.
She was a lifelong advocate of mental health, focusing on the issue during her husband’s governorship of Georgia in 1970, throughout his presidency and beyond.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” her son Chip said in a statement. “Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”
In her first interview as first lady, Carter described what she wanted to see. “For every person who needs mental health care to be able to receive it close to his home, and to remove the stigma from mental health care so people will be free to talk about it and seek help. It’s been taboo for so long to admit you had a mental health problem.”
Carter served as the honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health and testified before a Senate committee on behalf of the Mental Health Systems Act, which was signed into law by President Carter in October 1980.
She and her husband were also extremely active with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization known for building home in the U.S. and abroad.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton award the Carters the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award the nation’s government can bestow, for their service to the country and humanitarian efforts.
One of Mr. and Mrs. Carter’s last major public appearances was at the state funeral of former President George H.W. Bush in December 2018.
Mrs. Carter’s health declined in recent years. The Carters revealed she was diagnosed with dementia back in May 2023.
According to Jason Carter, their grandson and the chairman of the Carter Center board of trustees, the former first couple entered hospice together in their Georgia home earlier this year.
Mrs. Carter is survived by her husband, children and grandchildren. The Carters celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in July and were the longest married presidential couple in history.
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