Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died with her family by her side at her home in Plains, Georgia, on Sunday, according to a statement from the Carter Center. She was 96 years old.
The wife of the 39th President of the United States died after entering hospice care on Friday.
“Rosalynn has been my equal partner in everything I have 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 someone loved and supported me.”
She is survived by her husband, four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
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Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born on August 18, 1927 in Plains, Georgia, the eldest of four children to Alethea Murray Smith and Wilburn Edgar Smith.
When she was thirteen, her father died and her mother became a seamstress to help support her family. Carter worked alongside her mother and helped care for her younger siblings.
After completing high school, she enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus. In 1945, after her junior year, she first dated Jimmy Carter, who was home from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“She’s the girl I want to marry,” President Carter reportedly told his mother after his first date with Rosalynn Smith, who grew up as a friend and neighbor of the Carter family in Plains.
The couple married in July 1946.
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A biography of Carter credited to the White House Historical Association describes her “quiet, friendly manner” that made her an “effective campaigner” for her husband.
As First Lady of Georgia and later the United States, Carter worked tirelessly to create what she called “a more caring society,” notes a biography written by the Carter Center, the nonprofit she and Jimmy Carter co-founded in 1982.
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“As an activist First Lady with her own bold agenda, she established a distinguished office in the East Wing from which she set out to help disadvantaged people. Her efforts challenged ageism for seniors, promoted opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, and promoted women’s equality.” The center is mentioned.
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“Above all, she dedicated herself to improving treatment and services for those dealing with mental health conditions, a cause she embraced when her husband was governor and which remained her priority for the rest of her life,” the center says.
Her family announced that Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May 2023. She spent her final days with her husband and family.