Honoring the Legacy of Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

After former President Jimmy Carter left office in 1981, he and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, to advance human rights around the world. 

On November 19, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96. She was the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, who served in the White House from 1977 until 1981.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” former President Carter said in a statement after his wife’s death. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it.”

On the day Mrs. Carter died, President Joe Biden said of the Carters, “They’re really an incredible family because they brought so much grace to the office [of the presidency].”

At a November 20 press briefing that I attended at the White House, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recalled that Mrs. Carter “was a champion for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls.” Mrs. Carter was known for utilizing her role as First Lady to champion causes that mattered to ordinary Americans.

The former First Lady was honored at two separate ceremonies. The first took place on November 28 at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Former President Carter, who is 99 years old and in failing health, sat in the front row near the couple’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. 

The ceremony also was attended by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also in attendance were former First Ladies Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush. 

At the service, Mrs. Carter’s family members recalled the many milestones in her life, from her childhood in Plains, Georgia, to the White House with President Carter and beyond. “She was always able to speak with authority on issues across our country and the world,” James Earl “Chip” Carter said about his mother. 

A day later, Mrs. Carter was honored at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, where the Carter family worshipped for generations.


Skye visited Plains, Georgia, last March to learn more about former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who died on November 19. 


Last March, I visited Plains, where the Carters spent most of their lives. I learned that Rosalynn Carter worked with her husband at the Carter Center, which he founded in Atlanta, to advance human rights and find peaceful resolutions to conflicts around the world. 

The former First Lady was dedicated to helping vulnerable people. In 1971, she toured the state of Georgia to demonstrate her support for children with disabilities. She later founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. As First Lady, she became a force for improving the quality of mental health care.  

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Carter volunteered with her husband at Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that provides homes for people in underserved communities. The Carters helped to build several homes themselves. 

Wherever Mrs. Carter saw a problem, she tried to fix it. She even created a butterfly trail in Plains after reading about the declining monarch butterfly population. 

As Tony Lowden, the pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church, said, Rosalynn Carter didn’t just help people in the U.S. “She served every nation around the world.”


The former First Lady’s love of nature inspired her to create a trail in Plains to help protect the declinihng monarch butterfly population.



Photos courtesy of the author