Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States, dies at 96 | Obituaries News

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were the longest-married presidential couple: they married in 1946, when he was 21 and she was 18.

Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady of the United States and Jimmy Carter’s closest advisor during his only term as president, has died at age 96.

The Carter Center said Sunday that she “died peacefully, with her family at her side” at her rural home in Plains, Georgia, after living with dementia and suffering many months of declining health.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I accomplished,” Carter said in a statement.

“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, she always knew someone loved me and supported me.”

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were the longest-married presidential couple: they married in 1946, when he was 21 and she was 18.

After her term ended in 1981, she also enjoyed more post-White House years than any president before him, and she played a pivotal role during those years, including as part of the nonprofit Carter Center, and from the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Before arriving in Washington in 1977, she was seen as a modest and quiet person, but she became an eloquent speaker, campaigner and campaigner.

His abiding passion, which extended far beyond his years in the White House, was for those living with mental illness, not out of a personal connection but out of a strong feeling that advocacy was needed.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter dance at a White House Congressional Ball in 1978 [File: Library of Congress/Marion S Trikosko/Handout via Reuters]

Before Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, Roslynn was largely unknown outside Georgia, where her husband had been a peanut farmer turned governor.

A Democrat, he served a four-year term and lost his bid for re-election in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, a former Republican governor of California and Hollywood actor.

In Washington, D.C., the Carters were a team, and the president called her “an extension of myself” and “my closest advisor.” She was often invited to participate as an observer in Cabinet meetings and in debates on political strategy.

In a 1978 interview with magazine editors, Carter said he shared almost everything with his wife except top-secret material. “I think she understands the conscience of the American people and their attitudes perhaps better than I do,” he said.

The first lady was also sent on important official missions to Latin America and was part of the unsuccessful campaign for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution to guarantee equal treatment of women before the law.

The Iranian hostage crisis – in which American diplomats and others were held captive in Tehran after the Islamic revolution – occurred as Carter sought re-election. The crisis contributed to the downfall of his presidency, as he refrained from campaigning while trying to resolve the standoff.

During that time, Rosalynn Carter sought to support her husband by speaking in 112 cities in 34 states during a 44-day tour.

His speeches and crowd raids are credited with helping Carter defeat Democratic rival Ted Kennedy in the 1980 primary, although he lost overwhelmingly to Reagan in the general election.

His interest in mental health issues emerged in the early 1970s, when he began to realize the depth of the problem in Georgia and people’s reluctance to talk about it.

As first lady of Georgia, she was a member of the governor’s commission to improve services for the mentally ill.

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