Plains, Georgia – November 20, 2023
The nation mourns the loss of former first lady “Rosalynn Carter,” a stalwart champion for mental health care and humanitarian causes, who peacefully passed away at the age of 96 in her home in Plains, Georgia, on Sunday morning, as confirmed by the Carter Center.
Rosalynn Carter, devoted to the nation’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter, for 77 years, was not only a supportive spouse but a driving force in her own right. Described by her husband as his “equal partner in everything,” she provided wise guidance and unwavering encouragement throughout their enduring union.
During Jimmy Carter’s political career, Rosalynn emerged as his most ardent supporter, campaigning vigorously and transforming the role of the first lady into a full-time commitment after his election in 1976. She established an office in the East Wing, hiring a full staff and actively participating in foreign and domestic affairs.
A pioneer in her approach, Rosalynn Carter carried a briefcase filled with papers to the office every day, symbolizing her dedication to her role. As per Kate Anderson Brower, the author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” she assumed the role of a reliable advisor to the president, conducting regular meetings in the Oval Office.
Beyond the political sphere, Carter traversed the globe, advocating for mental health care improvement and human rights. She also championed the Equal Rights Amendment, striving for legal gender equality. Known for her warmth and selflessness, Carter prioritized helping people over materialistic pursuits, leaving an indelible mark as a strong, disciplined, and empathetic woman.
In her later years, Carter faced health challenges, entering hospice care on Friday after being diagnosed with dementia in May. Her passing comes after her husband, Jimmy Carter, entered hospice care in February. Their grandson, Jason Carter, shared in September that the couple was nearing the end, finding solace in their enduring love.
The legacy of Rosalynn Carter extends beyond her role as first lady. Growing up in Plains, Georgia, she overcame adversity, caring for her siblings and managing household responsibilities after her father’s death at the age of 13. Despite financial struggles, Carter completed high school and attended Georgia Southwestern College.
In her capacity as the first lady, Carter was passionate about addressing issues facing the elderly, leading the White House roundtable discussion on aging. Inspired by personal experiences, she became a fervent advocate for mental health reform, later serving as honorary chair of the “President’s Commission on Mental Health.”
Carter’s dedication culminated in the passage of the “Mental Health Systems Act in 1980,” providing grants to community mental health centers. She continued her advocacy through the Carter Center, established in 1982 with her husband, focusing on global issues such as Guinea worm disease, agricultural production in Africa, and human rights.
In her commitment to fighting the stigma around mental illness, Carter initiated the formation of the “Carter Center’s Mental Health program” and founded the “Rosalynn Carter Fellowships” for Mental Health Journalism. She also actively served on various boards, contributing to organizations such as the Plains Better Hometown Program and Plains Historic Preservation Trust.
Rosalynn Carter’s legacy, marked by compassion and action, transcends her time in the White House. Her impact on mental health care and humanitarian causes will be remembered as a testament to a life dedicated to making the world a better place.