Rosalynn Carter

First Lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981

Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter (August 18, 1927 – November 19, 2023) was an American activist and writer. She was the first lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981 as the wife of the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Before becoming first lady, she was the first lady of Georgia from 1971 to 1975 when her husband was governor.

Rosalynn Carter
Official portrait, January 1977
First Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byBetty Ford
Succeeded byNancy Reagan
First Lady of Georgia
In role
January 12, 1971 – January 14, 1975
GovernorJimmy Carter
Preceded byHattie Virginia Cox
Succeeded byMary Elizabeth Talbot Busbee
Personal details
Born
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith

(1927-08-18)August 18, 1927
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
DiedNovember 19, 2023(2023-11-19) (aged 96)
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
Cause of deathProblems caused by dementia and a urinary tract infection
Resting placeJimmy and Rosalynn Carter House, Plains
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
(m. 1946)
Children
Parents
  • Edgar Smith
  • Frances Allethea Murray
EducationGeorgia Southwestern State University
Signature

Biography

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Early life and education

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Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia.[1] She was the eldest of four children of Wilburn Edgar Smith and Frances A. Murray Smith. Her brothers were William Jerrold Smith, Murray Lee Smith, and a sister named, Lillian Allethea Smith Wall. Smith was named after Rosa Wise Murray, her maternal grandmother.[2]

Smith played with the boys during her early childhood since no girls on her street were her age. She drew buildings and was interested in airplanes, which led her to believe that she would someday become an architect.[3]

Smith's father died of leukemia in 1940 when she was thirteen. She called the loss of her father the conclusion of her childhood.[4] Thereafter, she helped her mother raise her younger siblings, as well as assisting in the dressmaking business to meet the family's standard of living.[5]

Smith graduated as valedictorian of Plains High School. She attended Georgia Southwestern College and graduated in 1946.[6] During her time in college, Rosalynn served as vice president of her class and was a founding member of her school's Young Democrats, Campus Marshal and Tumbling Clubs.[7][8] She would graduate with a junior college diploma.[7][8]

Marriage and children

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Smith first dated Jimmy Carter in 1945 while he was attending the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.[9] Smith agreed to marry Jimmy in February 1946 when she went to Annapolis with his parents. On July 7, 1946, they married in Plains. The couple had four children named Jack, James Earl III, Jeff, and Amy Carter.[10]

Georgia First Lady, 1971–1975

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Carter became the first lady of Georgia when her husband became the 76th governor on January 12, 1971. As the state's first lady, she decided to focus her attention of mental health .[11] She was appointed to the Governor's Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. In August 1971, Carter engaged in a statewide tour of mental health facilities across Georgia.[12]

Carter also served as a volunteer at the Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta, and for four years was honorary chairperson for the Georgia Special Olympics.[13] Her activities included entertaining as many as 750 people a week for dinner at the Governor's Mansion.[14]

First Lady, 1977–1981

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Carter alongside her husband as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Carter became the first lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 39th president on January 20, 1977. In March 1977, Carter gave her first interview since becoming first lady. She outlined her goals in focusing on mental health.[15]

Carter served as an active honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health. On behalf of the Mental Health System Bill enacted in 1980, she testified before a Senate committee, making her the second first lady to appear before Congress, after Eleanor Roosevelt. Of her priorities, mental health was the highest. Working to change the nature of government assistance to the mentally ill, Carter wanted to allow people to be comfortable admitting their disabilities without fear of being called crazy.[16]

Life after the White House

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After the Carters left the White House in 1981, they continued to be very active in public life. In 1982, she co-founded The Carter Center, a private, not-for-profit institution based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Carters returned to the home they had built in 1961 in Plains, Georgia. She was a member of the center's board of trustees and participated in many of the center's programs, but gave special attention to the mental health program.[17]

Mental health advocacy

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Carter created and served as the chair of The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, an advisory board of experts, consumers, and advocates promoting positive change in the mental health field. She hosted the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, bringing together nationwide leaders in the mental health field.[18]

In April 1984, she became an Honorary Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and served as a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association. In 1985, she started the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. The launch and its proceeds allowed representatives of mental health organizations to come together and collaborate on prominent issues.[19]

She became chair of the International Women Leaders for Mental Health in 1992,[20] and three years later she was honored with the naming of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Georgia Health Forum after her.[21]

The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism provide stipends to journalists to report on topics related to mental health or mental illnesses. The one-year fellowship seeks to promote public awareness of mental health issues.[22]

Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers

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Carter was president of the board of directors for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University. The institute focuses its work on both family and professional caregivers for individuals living with chronic illness and disabilities, limitations related to aging, and other health concerns people encounter in their lifespan.

Awards and honors

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In 1999, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.[23]

In 2001, Carter was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She became the third first lady inducted into the Hall of Fame, after Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt.[24]

Among Carter's many other awards for service are:

Carter received honorary degrees from the following institutions:

Carter served as distinguished centennial lecturer at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, from 1988 to 1992.[34] She was a Distinguished Fellow at the Emory University Department of Women's Studies in Atlanta from 1989 to 2018.[35][34]

Death and funeral

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In May 2023, the Carter Center announced that Carter had been diagnosed with dementia.[36][37] On November 17, 2023, Carter entered hospice care while receiving treatment for a urinary tract infection.[38][39] She died on November 19, 2023, at her home in Plains, Georgia, she was 96 years old.[40][41] After a final procession through Plains, Carter was buried during a private service at her residence.[42][43][44]

Writings

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  • First Lady from Plains (autobiography), 1984, ISBN 1-55728-355-9
  • Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (with Jimmy Carter), 1987, ISBN 1-55728-388-5
  • Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1994, ISBN 0-8129-2591-2
  • Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1998, ISBN 0-8129-2898-9
  • Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade), 2010, ISBN 978-1-59486-881-8

References

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  1. "A timeline of key moments from former first lady Rosalynn Carter's 96 years". Associated Press News. November 19, 2023. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  2. Carter, Rosalynn (1984), p. 3.
  3. "Where I'm From". Atlanta. February 1, 2012. Archived from the original on April 21, 2014.
  4. Carter, Rosalynn (1984), p. 17.
  5. Godbold, p. 44.
  6. "Biography of Rosalynn Carter". Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. Archived from the original on August 9, 2022. Retrieved July 7, 2022.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Rosalynn Carter at GSW" (PDF). gsw.edu. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 29, 2023. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Diaz, Christie (November 27, 2023). "'Never did I dream they would bear my name' – Namesake buildings honor Rosalynn Carter's history at alma mater". 11Alive. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  9. "Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: A love story for the ages". Q2 News (KTVQ). November 20, 2023. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  10. Sager, Jessica (November 17, 2023). "Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter's Relationship Timeline". People. Archived from the original on November 19, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  11. Lindsay, p. 229.
  12. Curry, Nan (August 13, 1971). "First Lady lauds Battey progress on mental aid". Rome News-Tribune. Archived from the original on March 17, 2022. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  13. Rosalynn Carter, First Lady from Plains, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1984: pp. 74–111
  14. Godbold, pp. 216–217
  15. "Mrs. Carter Says She Tells The President 'What I Think'". The New York Times. March 10, 1977. Archived from the original on November 13, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  16. Gould, p. 387.
  17. "Rosalynn Carter Biography". The Carter Center. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved July 28, 2008.
  18. Nestel, M.L. (November 19, 2023). "Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of the 39th president and advocate for mental health care, dies at 96". ABC News. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  19. Coleman, p. 52.
  20. "Biography of Rosalynn Carter". Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  21. Schneider, p. 318.
  22. Columbia Journalism Review, Nov./Dec. 2007
  23. Secretary of the Senate, United States Congress. "Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". Official Website of the United States Senate. United States Senate (Government of the United States). Archived from the original on July 14, 2004. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  24. "Discover Women of the Hall". National Women's Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  25. "Biography of Rosalynn Carter – About Us – the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum". Archived from the original on May 20, 2022. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  26. "Jefferson Awards FoundationNational – Jefferson Awards Foundation". Jeffersonawards.org. Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  27. "The Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health – Past Recipients". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on June 4, 2023. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  28. The American Peace Award Archived May 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. The American Peace Award. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  29. "Carter, former first lady to get peace award". Fox31Online. August 21, 2009. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  30. Johnson, Dirk (May 18, 1987). "Commencements: University of Notre Dame: After 35 Years as President, Hesburgh Retires". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 10, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  31. "Chronological Listing of Honorary Degree Recipients Emory University 1846–present" (PDF). Emory University. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  32. "Rosalynn Carter". Georgia Southwestern State University. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  33. "Carters at Queen's for honorary degrees | The Kingston Whig Standard". Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Oliver, Madi (November 19, 2023). "Rosalynn Carter dies, leaving behind 40-year legacy with Emory". The Emory Wheel. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  35. "Former Irish President to Speak at Emory". Emory University. November 26, 2003. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  36. "Carter Family Statement about Health of First Lady Rosalynn Carter". Carter Center. Archived from the original on May 30, 2023. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  37. "Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia, Carter Center says". CNN. May 30, 2023. Archived from the original on May 30, 2023. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  38. "Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter, joins husband in hospice care". The Guardian. November 17, 2023. Archived from the original on November 17, 2023. Retrieved November 18, 2023.
  39. Jordan, Mary (November 22, 2023). "The final hours of Rosalynn Carter's life, in the town where it began". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
  40. "Rosalynn Carter, former first lady and tireless humanitarian who advocated for mental health issues, dies at 96". NBC News. Archived from the original on November 19, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  41. "Rosalynn Carter, former first lady, dies at age 96". CBS News. November 19, 2023. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 19, 2023.
  42. Barrow, Bill (29 November 2023). "Rosalynn Carter is eulogized before family and friends as husband Jimmy bears silent witness". Associated Press News. Archived from the original on November 29, 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  43. Jordan, Mary; Sullivan, Kevin (29 November 2023). "Rosalynn Carter buried near the Georgia home that she built with Jimmy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  44. "Schedule of Observances for Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter". The Carter Center. November 19, 2023. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved November 20, 2023.