Rosalynn Carter tributes will highlight her reach as first lady, humanitarian and small-town Baptist

Rosalynn Carter (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Rosalynn Carter (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
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Rosalynn Carter will make her final journey to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center on Monday as her family begins three days of memorials for the former first lady and global humanitarian who died Nov. 19 at the age of 96.

After brief ceremonies in the Carters' native Sumter County in south Georgia, Rosalynn Carter's remains will travel by motorcade to Atlanta, where she will lie in repose at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

The library will be open from 6 to 10 p.m., offering the most direct opportunity for the public to pay their respects during the three-day tribute. Two funerals, set for Tuesday in Atlanta and Wednesday in the Carters' tiny hometown of Plains, are for invited guests.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, longtime friends of the Carters, lead the dignitaries expected to attend the Atlanta service. Motorcade routes will be open throughout the schedule. Rosalynn Carter's burial Wednesday in Plains is private.

It is not known whether the former president, who is 99 and in his 10th month of hospice care, will take part in the events. Those close to his immediate family have said he will make every effort as he grieves his partner of more than 77 years.

The schedule, a product of detailed planning that involved the former first couple, reflects the range of Rosalynn Carter's interests and impact. That includes her advocacy for better mental health treatment and the elevation of caregiving, her role as Jimmy Carter's closest adviser and her status as matriarch of Plains and Maranatha Baptist Church, where she and the former president served in various roles after leaving the White House in 1981.

“All over the world, people are celebrating her life,” said Kim Fuller, the Carters' niece, while teaching a Bible lesson Sunday at Maranatha. “And of course we’re coming into a week now where we’re gonna celebrate even more.”

A detailed schedule is available online. Events will be streamed and broadcast by independent media.

Some well-wishers began honoring Rosalynn Carter soon after her death, including an uptick in visitors to the Presidential Center campus.

“Mental health is more openly talked about” because of Rosalynn Carter's work to reduce the stigma attached to the conditions, said Brendan Green, a high school guidance counselor who came from Chicago.

“She was a pioneer in that field,” Green said. “What a great legacy.”

Formal ceremonies begin Monday at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, near Plains. Rosalynn Carter's remains will be transferred to a hearse there, accompanied by members of her Secret Service detail, past and present. A motorcade will travel to Georgia Southwestern State University, where the former first lady graduated in 1946 when it was Georgia Southwestern College.

At the campus's Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony attended by the current leadership of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. She founded the institute to advocate for the millions of unpaid caregivers in American households.

The motorcade then departs for Atlanta. A brief service of repose is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. — before public access — once her remains arrive at Carter Presidential Center.

The campus, near downtown, includes the library and museum, and The Carter Center. The former first couple founded the center in 1982 to champion democracy, mediate international conflicts and fight disease in the developing world. Their work around the world redefined what former White House occupants can do after ceding political power.

Streets around the campus will be closed Monday. Parking and a shuttle will be available at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 435 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta.

The largest single service will be held Tuesday at Glenn Memorial Church on the Emory University campus. Emory helped the former first couple establish The Carter Center. Besides the Bidens, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, have announced plans to attend. Other former first ladies and possibly former presidents are expected, as well.

Glenn is a Methodist congregation. The Carters married in 1946 at Plains Methodist Church, where Rosalynn Carter attended growing up. She joined her husband as a Baptist throughout their marriage.

Her final services at Maranatha will reflect their small-town Protestant roots: Church members are invited and also will eat a funeral meal with the Carter family the day of the service.

During her Sunday School hour, Fuller reminded her fellow Maranatha members that they are expected to provide dessert. “Whatever you want to bring is fine,” Fuller told them as she explained drop-off instructions. “Spread the word if you don't mind.”


Associated Press reporter Sudhin Thanawala contributed from Atlanta.