PLAINS, Georgia — Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (née Smith, born August 18, 1927), the wife of former President Jimmy Carter and a longtime mental health advocate and humanitarian, passed away on Sunday, November 19, 2023 at the Carter family home surrounded by her children, grandchildren and relatives, according to information from the Carter Center.
Mrs. Carter had been in hospice care that previous Friday; her family announced earlier this year that she had been diagnosed with dementia.
Former president Jimmy Carter, who is aged 99, has also been in hospice care since February of 2023.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” the President Carter said in a 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.”
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden recalled the “hope, warmth and optimism” of the former first lady, in a joint statement released Sunday. They praised Mrs. Carter’s support for equal rights, as well as her advocacy on mental health issues and other causes. The lives of countless people, the White House statement said, are “better, fuller, and brighter because of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Carter.”
Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush also praised Rosalynn Carter on Sunday, calling her “a woman of dignity and strength.”
“There was no greater advocate of President Carter, and their partnership set a wonderful example of loyalty and fidelity. She leaves behind an important legacy in her work to destigmatize mental health. We join our fellow citizens in sending our condolences to President Carter and their family,” former President and Mrs, Bush said in a prepared statement.
Rosalynn Carter served as the American First Lady from 1977 to 1981, and was dubbed the “Steel Magnolia” by the press during her years in the White House for the toughness she exhibited behind the gentle persona she outwardly embraced. Throughout Jimmy Carter’s time in public office, she was her husband’s closest political adviser. She also revolutionized and professionalized the first lady role by expanding the office beyond hostess duties.
She lived most of her life in Plains, GA, the Carters’ hometown, and was deeply engaged in humanitarian work through the Carter Center in Atlanta — an organization she founded with her husband after leaving the White House.
Rosalynn Carter was 96.