Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Has Died At 96

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The Georgia native spent decades in public service, most notably as an advocate for mental health awareness.

<p>Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images</p>

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has died. She was 96.

America’s 39th first lady died peacefully at her home after being entering hospice care last week, a spokesperson for the family announced. Earlier this year, the family also revealed Mrs. Carter had been diagnosed with dementia.

"Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights, passed away Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:10 p.m. at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96," according to a statement from The Carter Center. "She died peacefully, with family by her side."

Carter was born in Plains, Georgia in 1927. The oldest of four children, Carter lost her father when she was 13 and became a caretaker to her younger siblings.  After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus.

The summer after her freshman year of college, in 1945, Rosalynn went out on her first date with a family friend Jimmy Carter, who was back in Plains from Annapolis where he attended the Naval Academy.

"She’s the girl I want to marry," Jimmy Carter told his mother after that date, according to Rosalynn Carter’s biography on

The couple married in 1946, the year after their first date, and because of Jimmy Carter’s enlistment in the Navy, they were constantly on the move. Each of the Carters’ four children—Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy—was born in a different state.

The Carters eventually returned to their hometown of Plains, Georgia to run the Carter family business, a peanut farm, with Rosalynn handling the business side of things.

When Jimmy Carter entered politics, first serving as a state senator and governor of Georgia before running and winning the presidency in 1976, Rosalynn Carter was a trusted campaign adviser.

As First Lady, Rosalynn Carter made mental illness her main focus, serving as Honorary Chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health and helping to ensure the passage of the Mental Systems Act of 1980.

In many ways, though, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter’s true impact happened after their four years in the White House. The couple returned to Plains. They taught Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist church, participated in Habitat for Humanity builds, and as vice chair at the Carter Center, helped to promote peace and human rights nationwide.

Rosalynn Carter wrote five books, including her autobiography First Lady from Plains; Everything To Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life.

Rosalynn Carter was diagnosed with dementia in 2023, just months after the family announced Jimmy Carter would enter hospice care. She is now survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. (A grandson died in 2015.

Despite their health challenges, they remained side by side until the end, which according to their grandson, was one of their biggest blessings.

"They are together. They are at home. They're in love, and I don't think anyone gets more than that. I mean, it's a perfect situation for this time in their lives," Jason Carter said.

Related: Jimmy Carter's Grandson Shares Former President's Keys To Living A Long Life

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