Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter's Love Story Is Inspiring

Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter's Love Story Is Inspiring
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Jimmy Carter knew Eleanor Rosalynn Smith from basically the day she was born.

On August 18, 1927, Jimmy's mother, Lillian Carter, a registered nurse, helped deliver her neighbor Frances "Allie" Smith's eldest baby, Eleanor Rosalynn. The next day, she brought her 3-year-old son Jimmy to meet his new neighbor.

Many years would pass before they would begin to date in 1945, when Jimmy was home in Plains during summer vacation before his final year at the U.S. Naval Academy. Jimmy's younger sister, Ruth, was friends with Rosalynn. As Rosalynn would later recount, "Ruth and I had been trying to get me together with him."

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One July night, Jimmy spotted Rosalynn outside the United Methodist Church, and asked her on a date. That night, they went to a movie. "The moon was full in the sky, conversation came easy, and I was in love," Rosalynn would later write in First Lady from Plains, her memoir. The next morning, Jimmy remembers, he told his mom he was going to marry her.

He first asked her to marry him in February, when she came to visit him at the Naval Academy. She said no. "From then until late May, she maintained, 'No," Carter told Oprah in 2015. "I kept trying, and finally, she said okay." On July 7, 1946, they married at that Methodist Church where he first asked her out. They welcomed three sons in the next six years: Jack, in 1947, Chip, in 1950, and and Jeffery, in 1952. Their fourth child, and only daughter, Amy Lynn was born in 1967.

jimmy carter wwife and children
Jimmy and Rosalynn with Chip, Jack, and Jeff in an undated photo. Bettmann - Getty Images

When he was campaigning for president, Jimmy gave an interview to Playboy where he opened up about his marriage, saying the two had troubles adjusting to marriage. "We’ve come to understand each other much better. I was by far the dominant person in the marriage at the beginning, but not anymore," he said. "She’s just as strong, if not stronger than I am. She’s fully equal to me in every way in our relationship, in making business decisions, and she makes most of the decisions about family affairs. And I think it was a struggle for her to achieve this degree of independence and equality in our personal relationship. So, to summarize, years ago we had a lot of quarrels—none serious, particularly—but now we don’t."

Later in the interview, he said, "We also share a religious faith, and the two or three times in our married life when we’ve had a serious crisis, I think that’s what sustained our marriage and helped us overcome our difficulty. Our children, too, have been a factor binding Rosalynn and me together."

jimmy and rosalynn carter embrace, 1976
Jimmy embraces Rosalynn after learning he won the presidency, November 2, 1976.Hulton Archive - Getty Images
jimmy carter with his wife, rosalynn, after a talk with the press in the woods near his home in plains, georgia
The Carters in Plains, 1976.Owen Franken - Corbis - Getty Images

During Jimmy's tenure as president, Roslaynn played an active role as First Lady. He once said, "there's very seldom a decision that I make that I don't discuss with her, either to tell her after the fact what I've done or, very frequently, to tell her my options and seek her advice."

They had lunches, just the two of them, every Thursday in the Oval Office, to discuss policy and other decisions. "People underestimated her," Gerald Rafshoon, communications director in the Carter White House, told the Washington Post. "She was really the eyes and the ears for Jimmy Carter. And she was the person we’d go to if we needed to turn Jimmy around on something."

When Jimmy lost his reelection and left the White House, the two founded the Carter Center, and dedicated themselves to a life of service. "Over the years, we became not only friends and lovers, but partners," Rosalynn said at Jimmy’s 90th birthday celebration. "He has always thought I could do anything, and because of that, I/we have had some wonderful adventures and challenges."

the carters at carter library
The Carters in 1996.Diana Walker - Getty Images
jimmy carter plains, ga
The Carters hold hands as they walk home following dinner at a friend’s house, in Plains, Georgia, August 2018.The Washington Post - Getty Images

Rosalynn passed away at the age of 96, after having spent the majority of her life with Jimmy—over 77 years of marriage. "The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosa. That's the pinnacle of my life," he said in 2015. "That's the best thing that happened to me."

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