The steel magnolia withered forever. Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady, advocate for the fight for mental health and political advisor to her husband, President Jimmy Carter, died this Sunday at the age of 96 at her home in Plains, Georgia, surrounded by her family, including a string of great-grandchildren.
Last Friday he had entered palliative care at home. In a statement, former President Carter expressed his sorrow after the death of his lifelong companion and friend, to whom he was married for 77 years. “Rosalynn was my equal partner in all the things we accomplished. She gave me wisdom, guidance and courage when I needed it. “As long as Rosalynn was in this world, I always knew that someone loved me and supported me,” he noted in his note.
Not so long ago, when celebrating his 75 years of marriage, the former president assured that “every day is good if I have a smile from Rosalynn, and she always has it.” President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid tribute to the wife of the oldest former president, at 99 years old.
Rosalynn Carter resided in the White House between January 1987 and January 1981. She is credited with being the first lady of the modern age. She maintained an office and came daily, which was not usual, and transformed the figure of the president's wife into a person with a commitment, not just a companion. She even attended government cabinet meetings as one more.
She was widely regarded for her astuteness and received widespread praise for her keen electoral instincts, her always-down-to-earth appeal, and her work on behalf of the White House, including her services as an envoy to Latin America.
The Carter Center, the human rights group that founded and directed the couple, announced last May that Rosalynn had been diagnosed with dementia. “She continued to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying the springs in Plains and visits from her loved ones,” the organization said in a statement Sunday.
BessTruman, the wife of President Harry Truman, is the only first lady to have lived longer, according to the First Ladies Library. Mrs. Truman died in 1982 at age 97. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are the longest-serving presidential couple in American history.
The Carters, in unison, earned respect upon leaving the White House, where they only served one term and with an unflattering end due to the hostage crisis in Iran, for their subsequent involvement and development of humanitarian programs. His life was totally far from the splendor that other presidential families have enjoyed after returning to royal life.
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains on August 18, 1927, the eldest of four children. Her father died when she was 13 years old and her mother started working as a dressmaker to support her family.
The loss of her father when she was so young led Rosalynn to assume responsibilities at home with her mother. They managed to keep everyone together and stay afloat. Once she finished high school, she entered the University of Georgia Southwestern.
In his first course, in 1945, he met Jimmy, a childhood friend of the family who had just returned home after having been to the Naval Academy. “She is the girl I want to marry,” he told his mother after that first formal meeting, according to a biography of him. They married on July 7, 1946 and settled in Norfolk, Virginia, her husband's first destination after her graduation. But life in the navy caused them to move often.
They had three sons and a daughter, each born in a different place: Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut and Georgia. Jimmy's father died in 1953, which caused them to pack up again and return to Plains to manage the Carter family's peanut business. Rosaluynn, almost immediately, began working full time for this business as an accountant and other tasks.
In 1962 a new turn occurred. Jimmy Carter decided to enter politics. He won a seat in the Georgia Senate that same year. But he was not successful in his attempt to be governor in 1966. However, this did not discourage him and largely thanks to the efforts of his wife, he reached that position in 1970. This catapulted him to the White House, winning the elections of November 1976.
The information from that time recalls that Rosalynn was tireless in this work to bring her husband to the White House. Despite her appearance as a light and calm woman, hence the magnolia image of her, she never seemed to falter in her energy, tough as steel. Carter's advisors confessed that she was his main advisor. She stood out for her ability to connect with voters, with her proximity and affection.
In another sign of transformation at the time, Rosalynn traveled the country campaigning for her husband. Once in the White House, it was said of her that "she is not only the ornament of the East Wing." She was not content to work only as a decorator. Her involvement continued after leaving the mansion of power, without faltering. She had the job of fight for the mental health of citizens.