Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, died on Sunday at 96, according to The Carter Center.
Rosalynn Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May. She entered hospice care earlier this month, according to a statement from her grandson Jason Carter sent out by The Carter Center, which the couple founded in 1982. She died peacefully with family by her side.
Months before her dementia diagnosis was announced, the Carter family announced that her husband of 77 years, who has earned the title of the longest-living U.S. president, had started receiving hospice care.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” 99-year-old Jimmy Carter said in a statement on Sunday. “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.”
Rosalynn Carter was the first lady from 1977 to 1981 and was a torch-bearing mental health advocate. She was an active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, according to The Carter Center.
Before Jimmy Carter’s presidency, he was governor of Georgia. As the state’s first lady, Rosalynn Carter served on the Governor’s Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. Around that time, she also traveled alone to various states across the country for her husband’s presidential campaign.
“I love it. I love campaigning. I had the best time. I was in all the states in the United States. I campaigned solid every day the last time we ran,” she told The Associated Press in 2021.
She is also the founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, an organization that provides support and mental health care for caregivers.
Rosalynn Carter is a 2001 National Women Hall of Fame inductee and has seven honorary degrees. She was also an advocate of women’s rights and vaccination access for preventable diseases, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported.
Rosalynn Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, on Aug. 18, 1927, to Allethea Murray Smith and Wilburn Edgar Smith. She was the oldest of four children, helping her mother care for her siblings after her father died when she was 13 years old.
She is survived by her husband, her children ― Jack, Chip, Jeff and Amy ― her 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” Chip Carter said in a statement on Sunday. “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.”
Sanjana Karanth contributed to this report.
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