Rosalynn Carter, the influential former first lady and a dedicated advocate for mental health, has passed away.

Rosalynn Carter, the influential former first lady and a dedicated advocate for mental health, has passed away.

Rosalynn Carter, the dedicated wife of former President Jimmy Carter and a steadfast advocate for mental health and humanitarian causes, passed away on Sunday at her residence in Plains, Georgia. The Carter Center confirmed her death, noting that she was surrounded by her family at the time. Rosalynn Carter was 96 years old.

The announcement of Rosalynn Carter being in hospice care was made by the Carter Center on Friday. Earlier this year, her family had revealed that she had been diagnosed with dementia. Meanwhile, Jimmy Carter, now 99, has been under hospice care since February.

In a statement expressing his grief, the former president acknowledged Rosalynn’s pivotal role in his life, stating, “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.” The sentiment reflects the deep connection and mutual support that defined their enduring partnership.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden expressed their condolences and paid tribute to the late former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, in a joint statement released on Sunday. They fondly remembered her for embodying “hope, warmth, and optimism.” The Bidens lauded Carter’s unwavering support for equal rights and her advocacy on crucial issues such as mental health. According to the White House statement, countless lives have been positively impacted, becoming “better, fuller, and brighter because of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Carter.”

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush also shared their admiration for Rosalynn Carter, describing her as “a woman of dignity and strength.” The Bushes highlighted her unparalleled advocacy for President Carter and emphasized the exemplary nature of their partnership, setting a noteworthy example of loyalty and fidelity. In acknowledging her significant contributions to destigmatizing mental health, the statement conveyed the Bushes’ condolences to President Carter and their family.

Rosalynn Carter served as the first lady from 1977 to 1981 and earned the nickname “Steel Magnolia” from the press. This moniker reflected the juxtaposition of her outwardly gentle persona with the underlying toughness she displayed. Throughout her years in the White House, she played a pivotal role as her husband’s primary political adviser.

Notably, Rosalynn Carter left an indelible mark on the role of the first lady by introducing significant changes. She went beyond traditional hostess duties, revolutionizing and professionalizing the position. Her efforts expanded the scope of responsibilities associated with being the first lady, reflecting a commitment to meaningful engagement and influence in the political landscape. Rosalynn Carter’s legacy includes reshaping the expectations and contributions of first ladies in the United States.

Rosalynn Carter spent the majority of her life in Plains, the hometown of the Carters. Beyond her role as the first lady, she remained actively involved in humanitarian efforts. Alongside her husband, she co-founded the Carter Center in Atlanta after their time in the White House. This organization became a platform for the Carters to continue their commitment to humanitarian work, reflecting their dedication to making a positive impact on global issues even beyond the political sphere. Rosalynn Carter’s enduring engagement in humanitarian endeavors further solidifies her legacy as a compassionate and dedicated advocate for positive change.

Rosalynn Carter, the influential former first lady and a dedicated advocate for mental health, has passed away.

Early Lilfe Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter, born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in 1927 in Plains, a small rural town with a population of less than a thousand, experienced a childhood where the focal points were church and school. Growing up during the Great Depression, she often remarked that she didn’t perceive her family as poor, given the economic challenges faced by many around her.

Her father, a farmer and the owner of the county’s first auto shop, provided for the family until his death from cancer when Rosalynn was only 13. As the eldest of four siblings, she assumed a caregiving role in the aftermath of her father’s passing.

Described by Kathy Cade, a senior official at the Carter Center who worked closely with Rosalynn, as coming from humble roots, Rosalynn embodied the values of a bygone era, reflecting the organization of life in the rural South during the late 19th century.

During her teenage years, Rosalynn developed a romantic interest in Jimmy Carter, the older brother of her close friend Ruth Carter. Spotting a photo of Jimmy on her friend’s wall, she was captivated by his appearance, deeming him the most handsome man she had ever seen. Rosalynn then asked Ruth if she could take a copy of the photo home.

Their romantic journey began in 1945 when Rosalynn, a student at Georgia Southwestern College, and Jimmy, attending the U.S. Naval Academy, went on their first date. The following year, in 1946, they tied the knot, embarking on a partnership that endured for more than 75 years. The story of their enduring love and commitment started in the small town of Plains, setting the foundation for a remarkable and enduring connection.

While her husband served in the Navy, Rosalynn Carter took on the responsibility of managing the household and caring for their three young sons. The couple later expanded their family with the addition of a daughter, Amy, who spent a portion of her childhood in the White House.

After the death of Jimmy Carter’s father in 1953, the family returned to Plains and assumed control of the family peanut farm business in Sumter County. This partnership eventually evolved into a political one when Jimmy Carter ran for the Georgia state Senate in 1962. His successful campaign led to his election as governor of Georgia in 1970, thereby making Rosalynn Carter the state’s first lady.

However, upon entering the governor’s mansion, Rosalynn Carter, according to Kathy Cade, initially felt overwhelmed by her new role and the scrutiny of being in the public eye. The transition was marked by stress, but Cade notes that she quickly adapted, drawing strength from her faith to navigate the challenges of this novel and demanding situation. Despite the initial difficulties, Rosalynn Carter’s resilience and adaptability played a crucial role in her ability to fulfill the responsibilities of being the first lady of Georgia.

Life of after White House

Rosalynn Carter emerged as a dedicated advocate for her husband’s presidential aspirations and a fervent supporter of mental health care. During Jimmy Carter’s nearly two-year-long presidential campaign, she crisscrossed the country, despite her natural shyness and initial discomfort with public speaking. According to Kate Anderson Brower, Rosalynn “came alive” on the campaign trail, working tirelessly to familiarize the nation with her husband, who lacked widespread recognition beyond Georgia.

Brower recounted Rosalynn’s proactive approach during the campaign, noting that she would seek out the tallest antennas in towns, as they often indicated the location of TV or radio stations. Armed with a list of carefully crafted questions, Rosalynn engaged with media outlets, strategically using these opportunities to convey key messages and introduce her husband to a broader audience. Her dedication and strategic approach contributed significantly to Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential campaign and showcased Rosalynn’s ability to overcome personal reservations for the sake of supporting her husband’s political ambitions.

Following her husband’s election to the presidency, Rosalynn Carter ushered in a new era as the first lady. Her approach to the role was characterized by a level of engagement and influence rarely seen before.

In a notable departure from traditional first lady responsibilities, Carter attended Cabinet meetings, distinguishing herself as only the second first lady to testify before Congress. According to Kate Anderson Brower, who has written about the lives of first ladies, Rosalynn brought a professional approach to her role, symbolized by her status as the first presidential spouse to carry a briefcase to the office on a daily basis.

Brower suggests that Rosalynn Carter identified as a feminist and aspired to be a true partner to her husband. Her willingness to challenge traditional expectations and actively participate in political matters reflected a belief in her capacity to contribute meaningfully to her husband’s presidency. By breaking new ground in her role, Rosalynn Carter demonstrated a commitment to equality and partnership within the context of her responsibilities as the first lady.

In the White House, Rosalynn Carter’s foremost priority was mental health—an advocacy that had deep roots in her past experiences. Her passion for mental health issues began to take shape during her earlier years of campaigning across Georgia when she encountered individuals sharing stories of family members grappling with mental health challenges.

Rosalynn Carter, the influential former first lady and a dedicated advocate for mental health, has passed away.

During this period, Georgia faced significant gaps in community-based mental health services, particularly for children. Carter became acutely aware of the shortcomings in state resources, which included hospitals and institutions that were notorious for mistreating patients. Motivated by these concerns, she embarked on a mission to address the deficiencies in mental health services, making it a central focus of her agenda while in the White House. Rosalynn Carter’s commitment to mental health advocacy reflected a dedication to improving the lives of those affected by mental health issues and addressing systemic challenges in the healthcare system.

As the first lady of Georgia, Rosalynn Carter played a pivotal role in urging her husband to establish a governor’s commission on mental health. This initiative resulted in a groundbreaking plan that aimed to transform mental health treatment by shifting the focus from large institutions to community centers. According to Kathy Cade, a senior official at the Carter Center, Rosalynn Carter initiated efforts that would eventually modernize mental health care in the United States, and the current mental health care system bears the influence of her five decades of dedicated advocacy.

Beyond systemic changes, Carter was an early champion for reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. In her speeches, she consistently framed mental health care as a “basic human right.” In 1980, President Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act, a landmark piece of legislation that allocated grants for community mental health clinics. This achievement, among others, is often attributed in part to Rosalynn Carter’s advocacy efforts, both within the United States and on the global stage. Her tireless work contributed significantly to advancing mental health care and fostering a more compassionate and equitable approach to addressing mental health challenges.

3. Following Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful reelection bid in 1980, the Carters faced what they termed an “involuntary retirement,” returning to their hometown of Plains. This transition, marked by the loss of the presidency, proved to be a challenging period, particularly for Rosalynn Carter, who fervently believed in her husband’s capabilities as the nation’s leader.

Kathy Cade noted that Rosalynn Carter maintained a strong conviction that her husband was the best person for the presidency and that there was still important work to be done. Despite the disappointment of the electoral loss, the Carters turned their attention to revitalizing their home in Plains, a project that, as Rosalynn Carter mentioned in a 1987 NPR interview, provided a focus and distraction during this uncertain period.

In the aftermath of their return, the former president and first lady established the Carter Center, an organization dedicated to various causes. This included efforts to nearly eradicate Guinea worm disease in parts of Africa and Asia, as well as monitoring elections globally.

Their post-presidential contributions did not go unnoticed. In 1999, President Bill Clinton honored the Carters with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing their significant impact and stating that the couple had done “more good things for more people in more places than any other couple on the face of the Earth.” The Carters’ legacy extended far beyond their time in the White House, demonstrating a continued commitment to service, humanitarian efforts, and global betterment.

In 2019, the Carters achieved the milestone of becoming the longest-married presidential couple, and two years later, they joyously celebrated their remarkable 75th anniversary. Throughout their enduring partnership, they actively pursued new experiences together, cultivating a diverse list of shared hobbies that included playing tennis, bird-watching, turkey hunting, fly-fishing, and skiing. Jimmy Carter expressed his sentiment on their marriage in 2015, declaring, “The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosa.”

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, the loving couple at the center of this enduring union, welcomed four children into their family, and their legacy continued to grow with 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

When reflecting on her life and legacy, the former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, expressed a humble desire: “I would like for people to think I took advantage of the opportunities I had and did the best I could.” This sentiment encapsulates a life characterized by dedication, service, and a commitment to making the most of the opportunities presented, leaving a lasting impact on those around her and the nation as a whole.

 

 

 

 

(Source:NPR and Other News Media)