In Memoriam: Rosalynn Carter (1927–2023)
By National Archives News Staff
WASHINGTON, November 20, 2023 — Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 96, died in Plains, GA, on November 19, 2023. She served as First Lady from 1977 to 1981 while her husband, Jimmy Carter, served as the 39th President of the United States. She was born on August 18, 1927, in Plains, GA, the hometown of her future husband. Rosalynn and Jimmy married in 1946, just after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Their 77 years together is the longest marriage of any Presidential couple.
In a statement upon her death, President Jimmy Carter said, “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. 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.”
One of Mrs. Carter’s lasting legacies comes from her work—before, during, and after her time as First Lady—as an advocate for mental health.
While Jimmy Carter served as Governor of Georgia, Mrs. Carter led a passionate fight against the stigma of mental illnesses and worked to overhaul the state’s mental health care system.
She continued to advocate for mental health while in the White House. As honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, she held hearings across the country, testified before Congress, and presented the President with the commission’s recommendations for sweeping reforms to mental health policy and programs. This work led to the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.
As First Lady, Mrs. Carter promoted women’s rights, supported relief efforts for Cambodian refugees, organized White House Roundtable Discussion on Aging, and promoted immunizations for children.
After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Carter founded the Carter Center in 1982. The Center has programs throughout the developing world to resolve conflict, advance democracy, and ease suffering from disease.
In 2000, the Carter Center and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health established the Rosalynn Carter Endowed Chair in Mental Health to honor Mrs. Carter’s lifelong commitment to mental health advocacy. It is the first endowed chair in mental health policy at a school of public health.
Rosalynn Carter is survived by her husband, Jimmy, and their children John (Jack), James Earl III (Chip), and Donnel (Jeff), and Amy.
Ceremonies celebrating the life of Mrs. Carter will take place November 27 through 29, in Atlanta and Sumter County, GA.
The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum will remain open until November 25, and guests are invited to stop by to sign the condolence book in the lobby. The Carter Library will be closed November 26 to 28, as well as the morning of November 29, in observance of Mrs. Carter’s passing.
The Carter family invites members of the public to pay their respects as Mrs. Carter lies in repose at the Carter Library on November 27 and to view the family motorcade.
A memorial tribute to Rosalynn Carter, featuring photographs of the former First Lady from the holdings of the National Archives, is on view in the West Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and visitors are invited to sign the condolence book through Wednesday, November 29.
Condolence books will also be available to sign at Georgia Southwestern State University, the Plains Welcome Center, and Plains High School.
For details on how to pay your respects or to learn more about her lifetime of service, please visit RosalynnCarterTribute.org.