Former First Lady Rosalynn Smith Carter – a champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights – passed away Sunday at her home in Plains, GA, at the age of 96.
She died peacefully, with family by her side, at 2:10 p.m., according to a statement issued by The Carter Center in Atlanta.
It was announced on Friday that Mrs. Carter was receiving in-home hospice care alongside her husband of 77 years, former President Jimmy Carter, 99.
She is survived by her children — Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy — and 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said, according to the statement. “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.”
Mrs. Carter was a working partner and trusted advisor and strategist to the president, a participant in foreign and domestic affairs, as well as being widely recognized as the nation’s foremost advocate for mental health.
Early in 1977, barred by statute from being chair of the newly established President’s Commission on Mental Health, Mrs. Carter became its honorary chair. In this capacity, she held hearings across the country, testified before Congress, and spearheaded the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. She continued her work in the field of mental health throughout her life.
She established the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program to continue her work to combat stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses and promote improved mental health care in the United States and abroad.
In 1987, Mrs. Carter founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern State University to support those who selflessly cared for others and build on her belief that “there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”
Mrs. Carter was also often seen working alongside her husband on Habitat for Humanity home-builds in Georgia and around the world. They advocated and raised funds for the organization for 35 years.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” Chip Carter said in the statement. “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.”
The schedule of memorial events and funeral ceremonies will be posted at www.rosalynncartertribute.org. This tribute website includes the family’s official online condolence book and opportunities for memorial gifts.
Tributes to Mrs. Carter
From Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens
“More than 96 years ago a First Lady was born years ahead of her time who urged us to take our mental health seriously. She was Rosalynn Carter, and sadly she has passed away. Mrs. Carter worked side by side with her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, to make life better for people around the world. She never stopped advocating for mental health or the Equal Rights Amendment. She was an activist, author and humanitarian, travelled internationally as her husband’s envoy and was the model for the modern day First Lady. The city of Atlanta joins all of Georgia—and mourners around the world—as we honor the memory of First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
From U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock
From U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff
“I extend my deepest condolences to President Carter, Jack, Chip, Jeff, Amy, and the entire Carter family on their loss.
“A former First Lady of Georgia and the United States, Rosalynn’s lifetime of work and her dedication for public service changed the lives of many.
“Among her many accomplishments, Rosalynn Carter will be remembered for her compassionate nature and her passion for women’s rights, human rights, and mental health reform.
“The State of Georgia and the United States are better places because of Rosalynn Carter.
“I join all Georgians and Americans in mourning her loss. May Rosalynn Carter’s memory be a blessing.”
From Dr. Bernice King