Atlanta (AFP) – Former First Lady Rosalynn Carteryour closest advisor Jimmy Carter During his first term as President of the United States and the four decades he subsequently spent as a global humanitarian, he died at the age of 96.
Carter Center He said that she died on Sunday after suffering from dementia and suffering from deteriorating health for several months.
The Carters were married for more than 77 years, establishing what they both described as a “perfect partnership.” And unlike many Former First LadiesRosalyn sat in on Cabinet meetings, spoke on controversial issues and represented her husband on foreign trips. President Carter’s aides sometimes referred to her – privately – as “Co-Chairman.”
“Rosalynn is my best friend… a perfect extension of me, and probably the most influential person in my life,” Jimmy Carter told aides during their years in the White House, which extended from 1977 to 1981.
Loyal, compassionate, and politically astute, Rosalynn Carter prided herself on being an activist First Lady, and no one doubted her behind-the-scenes influence. When her role in the highly publicized cabinet reshuffle became known, she was forced to publicly state: “I do not run the government.”
Many of the president’s aides insisted that her political instincts were better than her husband’s, and they would often request her support for a project before discussing it with the president. Her iron will, contrasted with her outwardly timid demeanor and soft Southern accent, inspired Washington correspondents to nickname her “The Steel Magnolia.”
Both Carters said in their later years that Rosalynn was always the more political of the two. After Jimmy Carter’s crushing defeat in 1980, it was she, not the former president, who contemplated the implausible comeback, and years later she admitted she had lost her life in Washington.
Jimmy Carter trusted her so much that in 1977, just months into his term, he sent her on a mission to Latin America to tell autocrats that he meant what he said about denying military aid and other support to human rights violators.
She also had strong feelings about the style of the Carter White House. The Carter family did not serve hard alcohol on public occasions, although Rosalynn permitted American wine. There were fewer ballroom dancing evenings and more dancing and picnics.
Throughout her husband’s political career, she chose mental health and elder issues as her political focus. When the media did not cover these efforts as much as she thought was warranted, she criticized reporters for only writing about “sensational topics.”
As honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, she once testified before a Senate subcommittee, becoming the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to address a congressional committee. She returned to Washington in 2007 to push Congress for better mental health coverage, saying, “We’ve been working on this for a long time, and it finally seems to be within reach.”
She said she developed her interest in mental health during her husband’s campaigns for governor of Georgia.
“I would come home and say to Jimmy: Why do people tell me their problems?” “Because you may be the only person they ever see who might be close to someone who can help them,” he said.
After Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election, Rosalynn Carter seemed clearly more devastated than her husband. At first she had little interest in returning to the small town of Plains, Georgia, where they were born, married and spent most of their lives.
“I was hesitant, not at all sure that I could be happy here after the dazzlement of the White House and years of political battle-wrenching,” she wrote in her 1984 autobiography, “The First Lady of the Plains.” But we “slowly rediscovered contentment with the life we had long since left behind.”
After leaving Washington, Jimmy and Rosalynn co-founded the Carter Center in Atlanta to continue their work. She chaired the center’s annual symposium on mental health issues and raised money for efforts to help the mentally ill and homeless. She also wrote Helping Yourself to Help Others about the challenges of caring for elderly or ill relatives, and a sequel called Helping Someone with a Mental Illness.
Often, the Carters left their home country on humanitarian missions, building homes in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and promoting public health and democracy throughout the developing world.
“I’m tired,” she said of her travels. “But something wonderful always happens. Going to a village where there’s guinea worm and then coming back a year or two later and there’s no guinea worm, I mean people are dancing and singing – it’s quite wonderful.”
In 2015, Jimmy Carter’s doctors discovered four small tumors in his brain. Carter feared he had weeks to live. He was treated with a drug to boost his immune system, and it was later announced that doctors had found no remaining signs of cancer. But when she first received the news, she said she didn’t know what to do.
“I rely on him when I have questions, when I write letters, or anything, I consult with him,” she said.
She helped Carter recover several years later when he underwent hip replacement surgery at age 94 and had to learn to walk again. She was with him earlier this year when, after a series of hospital stays, he decided to forego further medical interventions and begin end-of-life care.
Jimmy Carter is the longest-living US president. Rosalynn Carter was the nation’s second-longest-living first lady, after Bess Truman, who died at age 97.
Eleanor Rosalyn Smith was born in Plains on August 18, 1927, the eldest of four children. Her father died when she was young, so she took on much of the responsibility of caring for her siblings when her mother went to work part-time.
She also contributed to the family income by working after school in a beauty salon. “We were very poor and we worked hard,” she once said, but she continued her studies, graduating from high school as valedictorian.
She soon fell in love with the brother of one of her best friends. Jimmy and Rosalynn had known each other all their lives—Jimmy’s mother, nurse Lillian Carter, had given birth to baby Rosalynn—but he left for the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, when she was still in high school.
After a blind date, Jimmy told his mother, “This is the girl I want to marry.” They married in 1946, shortly after he graduated from Annapolis and Rosalynn graduated from Georgia Southwestern College.
Their children were born where Jimmy Carter was stationed: John William (Jack) in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1947; James Earl III (Chip) in Honolulu in 1950; and Donnell Jeffrey (Jeff) in New London, Connecticut, in 1952. Amy was born in Plains in 1967. By then, Carter was a state senator.
Marine life gave Rosalyn her first opportunity to see the world. When Carter’s father, James Earle Sr., died in 1953, Jimmy Carter, without consulting his wife, decided to move the family back to Plains, where he took over management of the family farm. There she joined him in daily operations, keeping books and weighing fertilizer trucks.
“We developed a partnership when we were in the farm supply business,” Rosalynn Carter recalled proudly in a 2021 interview with The Associated Press. “I knew more about the business on paper than he did. “He would take my advice on things.”
At the height of the Carter family’s political power, Lillian Carter said of her daughter-in-law: “She could do anything in the world with Jimmy, and she’s the only one. “He listens to her.”