Former First Lady Eleanor Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has died at age 96, according to an announcement by The Carter Center.
Carter, who served as first lady during her husband’s presidential term from 1977 to 1981, had entered hospice care on Friday following a diagnosis of dementia. She died on Sunday due to complications of old age according to an announcement by The Carter Center, a non-profit organization that she and her husband founded to champion philanthropic causes. (RELATED: Former President Jimmy Carter Enters Hospice Care)
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy Carter said in a statement provided by The Carter Center. “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.”
Our co-founder, former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, passed away this afternoon in Plains, Georgia.
— The Carter Center (@CarterCenter) November 19, 2023
Carter and her husband were the longest-living presidential couple, having been married for 77 years. At age 96, she was also the second-longest-living First Lady in U.S. history, behind Bess Truman, the wife of late President Harry Truman, who died at 97.
Carter was a close adviser of her husband as president and would, at times, attend cabinet meetings.
“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,” wrote her son, James Earl “Chip” Carter III, in a statement. For many years, Carter was an advocate for mental health and founded several programs and fellowships to support mental health research, as well as the practice of caregiving for patients.
Her advocacy efforts led to the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, a federal statute mandating that health insurance coverage for mental health must include treatment for psychological disorders, alcoholism and drug addiction. Apart from her own efforts, Carter participated in her husband’s well-known efforts with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing, including performing carpentry work with her husband at construction sites after he left office.
Carter, whose maiden name was Smith, graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946. She also served as the First Lady of Georgia from 1971 to 1975, while her husband was the state’s governor.
Numerous public figures expressed their condolences upon the news of Carter’s death. “America has lost a passionate humanitarian and champion for people all over the world,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Twitter, now known as X.
“Rosalynn Carter leaves behind a meaningful legacy…[w]e will always remember her servant’s heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country,” wrote former First Lady Melania Trump on Twitter.
Carter died in Plains, Georgia, the town in which she was born, raised and lived with her husband for decades. She died with her family by her side, according to the statement, and is survived by her husband, four children, eleven grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.
As a former First Lady, Carter’s funeral may be attended by First Lady Jill Biden as well as all living former presidents and first ladies, with the incumbent president, by custom, not attending. The last First Lady to die was Barbara Bush, the wife of late President George H.W. Bush, in 2018, whose death preceded her husband’s by eight months.
Jimmy Carter, himself, entered hospice care on Feb. 18.
“Time and time again, during the more than four decades of our friendship – through rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss – we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter,” wrote President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in a statement provided by The White House. “On behalf of a grateful nation, we send our love to President Carter.”
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