Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter: 18th August 1927-19th November 2023
Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady of the United States, has passed away. She was 96.
Mrs. Carter is survived by husband James Carter, her four children, twenty-three grandchildren and great-grandchildren and sister Lillian. She was predeceased by her father Wilburn Smith (1940), mother Frances Murray Smith (2000), brothers William “Jerry” and Murray (2003), and grandson Jeremy (2015).
Born in Plains, Georgia, Rosalynn lived humbly as a girl in a family of limited means. She was only thirteen when her father Wilbur died, leaving Rosalynn as the eldest child to take care of her family. This resilience saw Rosalynn both work and gain a high school education. She graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946.
Rosalynn married James Earl Carter, known as Jimmy, in 1946. After their first date, Cartee told his mother that he knew that he would one day marry Rosalynn – words that would come true. The two were married for 77 years at the time of their death. The Carters were famous for their close, loving marriage that spanned nearly eighty years. Rosalynn would be Carter’s closest ally and counsel over his political career. She was a constant sounding board for his ideas and he was always ready to listen. Rosalynn’s support for Carter was invaluable. She campaigned avidly for him at all levels, whether it was the State Senate or the Presidency of the United States. Her warmth and affability made her a hit with voters and politicians alike.
The Carters were a couple of deep, true faith, and would read the Bible together in Spanish every night. Their love was one that nobody could deny. Even as age piled onto them, they would be regularly seen together in their beloved hometown of Plains.
Rosalynn is survived by her four children – Jack, James, Donnel and Amy, as well as a small army of children and grandchildren. She was a loving mother who worked hard to care for her children when her husband was working away. Amy, the youngest, was born after the Carters were told that they could not have any more children. Over the years, Rosalynn enjoyed spending time with her family.
Rosalynn was a popular First Lady. Citizens responded well to her simple Southern charm, lack of pretentiousness, warmth, grace and dedication. She traveled the country and the world, meeting thousands of fascinating people along the way. Even as her husband’s popularity waned, she remained a well-liked woman.
As First Lady of Georgia, First Lady and in her private life, Rosalynn proved to be a champion. Her work supporting the mentally ill and disabled was groundbreaking at a time when neither issue was discussed openly. She pushed for legislation, appeared before committees and encouraged an open dialogue. Rosalynn also supported the Equal Rights Amendment and enjoyed working with the elderly. Following her time as First Lady, Mrs. Carter continued that work. She chaired the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, worked with the Carter Center and did so much more. Her work on mental health has produced laws that passed through Congress, showing how dedicated she was to the cause. She also wrote books and attended functions, including speaking at Betty Ford’s funeral.
Though her life was long and full of wonder, Rosalynn Carter will be missed. Her legacy will be of a loving, strong woman who fought for those who needed a voice. May she rest in peace.
Proverbs 31:26: She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.