R.I.P, The Carter Family Is In Morning
Rosalynn Carter, a pivotal figure in American political history and an integral part of one of the longest-lived presidential couples, passed away at the age of 96. Her demise was announced by the Carter Center, marking the end of an era that saw her redefine the role of the First Lady in the United States.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, Rosalynn faced the challenges of her father’s death from cancer at a young age. She grew up to play a significant role in her family, which later influenced her approach to her public life. Her relationship with Jimmy Carter began when she was 17, and despite initial hesitations due to a promise made to her father, they married on July 7, 1946. This union, celebrated after Jimmy Carter’s graduation from the Naval Academy, would lead to four children, including Amy, who spent part of her childhood in the White House.
Rosalynn Carter was not just a supportive spouse but a key player in Jimmy Carter’s political ascension. She was instrumental in his campaigns, particularly in his 1976 presidential bid where she toured over 40 states. Her efforts were not just supportive but strategic, helping Jimmy Carter achieve a surprising victory.
As First Lady, Rosalynn Carter revolutionized the role, moving beyond traditional responsibilities to become a vital partner in policy-making and international diplomacy. Historian E. Stanly Godbold, in his biography of the couple, highlights her establishment of the Office of First Lady and her active involvement in the presidency, a significant departure from the norm during that era.
The Carters’ influence went beyond their political roles; they represented a new image of the South in the 1970s, starkly different from previous Southern governors known for their segregationist and racist policies. Jimmy Carter was known for his benevolence, a stark contrast to the bitterness of his predecessors, and Rosalynn complemented him perfectly with her grace and gentleness. This dynamic contributed significantly to their lasting admiration, even after the challenges of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
In her later years, Rosalynn Carter continued to stand by her husband in both their public endeavors and personal life. Her contributions were not only recognized by the public but deeply appreciated by Jimmy Carter, who often expressed that marrying Rosalynn was the best decision of his life.
Rosalynn Carter’s legacy is marked by her transformation of the First Lady’s role and her commitment to her husband’s political career. Her journey from a small town in Georgia to the White House, and her impactful life thereafter, remains a testament to her resilience, intelligence, and unwavering support in one of America’s most notable political partnerships.