Former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, known for her tireless advocacy for mental health, passed away on Sunday at the age of 96, according to the Carter Center. Rosalynn, who had recently entered hospice care at her home in Plains, Georgia, died surrounded by her family. She was married to President Jimmy Carter, and their union was the longest-lasting among U.S. presidential couples. Even after leaving the White House, Rosalynn continued to play a vital role in various organizations, including the Carter Center and the Habitat for Humanity charity. In May, her family revealed that she had dementia but was still living at home. Jimmy Carter, 99, is currently in hospice care after deciding not to pursue further medical intervention earlier this year. In a statement, the former president described Rosalynn as his equal partner who provided him with wise guidance and support throughout their lives together.
Rosalynn Carter was initially seen as unassuming and quiet before assuming the role of first lady in 1977. However, she quickly developed into an eloquent speaker, campaigner, and activist. Her passion for mental health advocacy extended beyond her time in the White House. Rosalynn’s interest in the field emerged during her husband’s campaign for governor when she witnessed the depth of the problem in Georgia and the stigma surrounding it. As first lady of Georgia, she served on a commission to improve services for the mentally ill. In the White House, she became the honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, contributing to the passage of the 1980 act that funded local mental health centers.
After leaving Washington, Rosalynn continued her work through the Carter Center, which she and Jimmy founded in 1982. She advocated for mental health, early childhood immunization, human rights, conflict resolution, and the empowerment of urban communities. Rosalynn hoped that her legacy would extend beyond her role as first lady and that her efforts would improve the lives of people living with mental illnesses. She longed for a future where the mentally ill would be free from discrimination.
In addition to her mental health advocacy, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter were also actively involved in the Habitat for Humanity charity, helping build homes for those in need. Their humanitarian efforts were recognized in 2002 when Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Carters remained active members of their community in Plains, Georgia, with Rosalynn serving as a deacon at Maranatha Baptist Church, where Jimmy was also a deacon and long-time Sunday school teacher.
Rosalynn Carter is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. Her passing has been mourned by figures such as First Lady Jill Biden, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush, and former President Donald Trump, who referred to her as a great humanitarian.