Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Passes Away at 96, Remembering Her Life and Legacy

Meg Bucher | Writer and Author | Updated: Nov 21, 2023
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Passes Away at 96, Remembering Her Life and Legacy

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Passes Away at 96, Remembering Her Life and Legacy

Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady of the United States, died peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on Sunday, November 19, 2023. According to The Carter Center, she had been suffering from declining health and dementia. She was 96 years old and married to former President Jimmy Carter for 77 years. Together they shared four children, 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. She is the second longest-lived first lady, and Jimmy Carter is the longest-lived US President, at 99 years old.

The Carter’s marriage was considered a ‘full partnership,’ CBN News reported. They were married at Plains Methodist Church in 1946.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said, “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.”

Aides at the White House recall Jimmy referring to Rosalyn as his best friend and the most influential person in his life. People reported the meaning behind “ILYTG,” Jimmy and Rosalyn said to each other: “I love you to the goodest.’ That’s what my mother and daddy used to say back and forth, and I picked it up with Rosa,’ Jimmy told People, “Now all our children do the same thing – ILYTG on the phone or in emails.”

A devout Baptist, Rosalyn was an outspoken activist. Her shy demeanor complimented her diplomacy as she paved the way for the office of First Lady to be utilized as a platform to champion change and awareness.

Losing her father at an early age, she helped raise her siblings. “Rosalyn and Jimmy each endured challenges of rural depression life,” The Guardian reported, “But while the Carters were considerable landholders, the Smiths were poor, and Rosalynn’s father died in 1940, leaving her to help raise her siblings.” She and Jimmy had known each other their whole lives, first meeting when Rosalyn was a newborn and Jimmy was three. They were neighbors, and Jimmy’s mother, a nurse, helped deliver Rosalyn as a baby. They lived an all-American life, with Jimmy serving in the US Navy and he and Rosalyn embracing the throes of Georgia farm life. All were preparing them for the life they would lead in Washington DC as President and First Lady.

Dubbed ‘the Steel Magnolia’ by Washington reporters, Rosalyn was politically astute and a valuable asset to her husband’s presidency. The Associated Press, in a timeline of Rosalyn’s life events, told how she led the ‘Peanut Brigade,’ which revolutionized presidential campaigning: “The ‘Peanut Brigade’ of Carter family, friends and supporters from Georgia spread out across Iowa and other key nominating states to widen the campaign’s person-to-person reach.” According to the Associated Press, her last public appearance was in the Plains Peanut Festival parade.

Her son Chip Carter said, “Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right. 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.”

She was strong-willed, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day instead of riding in an armored limousine. The White House didn’t serve hard liquor when the Carters lived there.

Rosalyn had a prominent voice in her husband’s life and on behalf of her nation. She had a heart for those suffering in America and worldwide. The way she lived her life was evidence of her compassion for people. “I think she understands the consciousness of the American people and their attitudes perhaps better than I do,” Jimmy Carter said.  In 1999, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. ‘Rosalynn: Friend and First Lady,’ by Edna Langford and Linda Maddox (1980, Revell,) contains a widely shared description of Rosalynn Carter:

“She knows many will not fully understand the spiritual base by which they operate, but there’s a confidence that the world will not forget their emphasis on personal integrity, human rights, and justice for all people. That’s Rosalyn.”

According to CBN News, Rosalyn chose mental health and the elderly as her signature policies.

“I wanted to make mental illnesses and emotional disorders out of the closet,” Rosalynn Carter was quoted by ABC News, “to let people know it is all right to admit to having a problem without fear of being called crazy. If only we could consider mental illnesses as straightforwardly as we do physical illnesses, those affected could seek help and be treated in an open and effective way.”

Rosalyn was an honorary chairwoman of The President’s Commission on Mental Health, paving the way for the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act in 1980. After their time in Washington, they formed The Carter Center in Atlanta. She wrote two books addressing the causes she championed, “Helping Yourself Help Others” and “Helping Someone with Mental Illness.”

Rosalyn Carter’s life will continue to inspire and encourage women in politics and all walks of life. The wisdom she accumulated early in life, from both hardship and blessing, seemed to be the driving force behind her passion for humanity, especially caring for people in their last days. Her drive to call attention to mental health is continuing in an era where it is possibly more important to address than it has ever been. The effects of her faithful life of service will continue to ripple across the country and the world.



Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Win McNamee / Staff

Video Courtesy: Associated Press via YouTube

Meg BucherMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at Joy Overflowing and Sunny&80. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as Editor of Christian Headlines. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.

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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Passes Away at 96, Remembering Her Life and Legacy