The former first lady died at home surrounded by family on Sunday
The former first lady died at home on Sunday afternoon surrounded by family, including her husband, the nation’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter.
Known for mental health and human rights advocacy work throughout her life, the former first lady has been honored by messages that have poured in from world leaders, as well as many other political and public figures.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden released a statement Sunday, remembering Rosalynn for "inspiring a nation and the world" with her dedication to addressing "many of society's greatest needs."
"She was a champion for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls; an advocate for mental health and wellness for every person; and a supporter of the often unseen and uncompensated caregivers of our children, aging loved ones, and people with disabilities," the Bidens wrote, also noting the enduring love between Rosalynn and her husband.
"Above all, the deep love shared between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter is the definition of partnership, and their humble leadership is the definition of patriotism. She lived her life by her faith," the statement continued.
"Time and time again, during the more than four decades of our friendship — through rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss — we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter. She will always be in our hearts."
Vice President Kamala Harris also issued a statement honoring Rosalynn's life of service and leadership.
"During her time in the White House, Rosalynn Carter redefined the role of First Lady. Through her courageous advocacy, Mrs. Carter helped bring the issue of mental health out from the shadows into the national spotlight and served as a champion for America’s caregivers. On her trips abroad, Mrs. Carter worked to advance human rights and human dignity," Harris' statement said.
"After leaving the White House, Mrs. Carter continued to serve our nation and the world — in particular, through her leadership of the Carter Center, which she founded with President Jimmy Carter to promote peace, improve public health, and support freedom and democracy around the globe," the statement continued. "As a humanitarian, a public servant, and a global leader, Mrs. Carter improved the lives of millions — and inspired countless more to dedicate their lives to service. Her legacy will be a beacon for generations to come."
You learn very quickly that there is no handbook or rules to being First Lady. Technically, it’s not even an official position. And while there are spoken and unspoken expectations that provide some structure, the role is largely shaped by the passions and aspirations of the… pic.twitter.com/MDOVk8NtR1
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) November 19, 2023
Former first lady Michelle Obama also paid tribute to Rosalynn in a post on X, touching on their shared experience in their White House roles. "You learn very quickly that there is no handbook or rules to being First Lady. Technically, it’s not even an official position. And while there are spoken and unspoken expectations that provide some structure, the role is largely shaped by the passions and aspirations of the person holding it. First Lady Rosalynn Carter understood that well," she wrote.
"Guided by her abiding faith and her commitment to service, Mrs. Carter used her platform in profoundly meaningful ways. Her groundbreaking work to combat the stigma faced by those struggling with their mental health brought light to so many suffering in silence," Obama continued.
"Today, Barack and I join the world in celebrating the remarkable legacy of a First Lady, philanthropist, and advocate who dedicated her life to lifting up others. Her life is a reminder that no matter who we are, our legacies are best measured not in awards or accolades, but in the lives we touch," Obama added.
Former vice president Al Gore — who served from 1993 to 2001 alongside president at the time, Bill Clinton and is known for his environmental activism — posted a heartfelt tribute shortly after the death of the former first lady was announced, praising her as a leader and remembering times they had worked together over the years.
Rosalynn Carter was a remarkable leader. Unwavering in her partnership with her husband, Jimmy, she built upon the work they did together by championing the causes of mental health, human rights, and the needs of children around the world. I was blessed to have been able to work…
— Al Gore (@algore) November 19, 2023
"Rosalynn Carter was a remarkable leader. Unwavering in her partnership with her husband, Jimmy, she built upon the work they did together by championing the causes of mental health, human rights, and the needs of children around the world," Gore wrote in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).
"I was blessed to have been able to work alongside her on a number of issues and still fondly remember building homes together for Habitat for Humanity. My prayers are with the Carter family during this difficult time. May she rest in peace," he concluded.
"Melania and I join all Americans in mourning the loss of Rosalynn Carter. She was a devoted First Lady, a great humanitarian, a champion for mental health, and a beloved wife to her husband for 77 years, President Carter," he wrote.
The nation's 45th president continued, "Over a life spanning nearly a century, Rosalynn Carter earned the admiration and gratitude of our entire nation. From her days as a U.S. Navy spouse, to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, to her tenure as First Lady of the United States, and her later work at the Carter Center and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, she leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and national service."
"Our prayers are with the former president, the Carter family, and the entire community of Plains, Georgia, that she loved so much!" his message concluded.
Meanwhile, a former first lady herself, Melania also posted her own tribute on Sunday, noting Rosalynn's lasting legacy in both politics and her personal life.
"Rosalynn Carter leaves behind a meaningful legacy not only as First Lady but as a wife and mother," she wrote on X, adding, "We will always remember her servant’s heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country. May she rest in peace."
Maria Schriver, a former first lady of California — her tenure ran from 2003 to 2011 when ex-husband Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governor of California — paid tribute to Rosalynn in a heartfelt message where she honored the former first lady's attitude, work and approach to life.
"Rosalynn Carter served her country with strength and grace," she wrote on X. "She was someone I got to work alongside of, and someone I deeply respected. Thank you, Mrs. Carter for everything you did, for the way you used your voice, for the love you exuded. My deepest condoles to the love of her life, former President Jimmy Carter, and to their entire family. ❤️
New York Senator Chuck Schumer was another of the first to post a tribute to Rosalynn on social media.
First Lady Rosalynn Carter dedicated her life to serving others.
America has lost a passionate humanitarian and champion for people all over the world.
My heart goes out to her entire family. pic.twitter.com/Zi8eQDlRiT
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 19, 2023
In a post on X, he praised the former first lady for her life of service.
"First Lady Rosalynn Carter dedicated her life to serving others. America has lost a passionate humanitarian and champion for people all over the world," Schumer wrote.
"My heart goes out to her entire family," he concluded his message.
Another U.S. Senator, Cory Booker, reflected on Rosalynn's life in his own tribute, and recognized her long relationship with husband, Jimmy.
"All her life Rosalynn Carter dedicated herself to serving others. As First Lady she served our country with grace and kindness. My heart is with her love of over 75 years, President Carter and their family today," he wrote on X alongside a photograph of himself with the Carters.
All her life Rosalynn Carter dedicated herself to serving others. As First Lady she served our country with grace and kindness. My heart is with her love of over 75 years, President Carter and their family today. pic.twitter.com/StYOTnheik
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) November 19, 2023
New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who also serves as Minority House Leader, added on X that he was "deeply saddened" by Rosalynn's death and described her as "a beloved First Lady and wonderful humanitarian, she led a life of service and compassion."
"May God watch over President Jimmy Carter and their family during this difficult time," he wrote.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” Love and prayers for former First Lady, #RosalynnCarter, and former President, #JimmyCarter,” Bernice wrote on X alongside a photograph of the former first lady and former president.
She later shared another post, in two parts, which began: "Today, we mourn the loss of a remarkable woman and dear friend of the King family and The King Center, former First Lady #RosalynnCarter."
Her second post in the same thread read, "Her commitment to peace and tireless efforts, alongside her husband, former President #JimmyCarter, to make a positive impact on our nation and world will be remembered. Our hearts are with President Carter and the Carter family during this difficult time. @CarterCenter."
"Thank you !! Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter," she wrote, including several images of Rosalynn at different periods during her life in her post.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) November 19, 2023
Rosalynn, who married Jimmy in 1946, served as first lady during her husband's tenure as president, from 1977 to 1981, during which time she became known for her work advocating for mental health, including serving as honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.
After leaving the White House, she and Jimmy launched The Carter Center. Among her duties at the organization, which is focused on health and human rights, Rosalynn chaired the center’s Mental Health Task Force.
In the 1980s, she and Jimmy began a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, called the Carter Work Project. Since then, the nonprofit has helped build more than 4,000 homes and even until very recently the Carters were known for getting involved with with projects in a hands on way.
As well as working as distinguished centennial lecturer at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia and writing five books, and among other honors, Rosalynn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 1999 and in 2001, was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
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She is survived by the couple's four children and numerous grandchildren and great-children.
Speaking to PEOPLE in 2014, the Carters reflected on a lifetime spent together, and during the conversation one of the secrets to their long romance was revealed: They were a couple who still read to each other every night in bed.
“We started 40 years ago, and we’ve never missed a night, I don’t think," Jimmy said.
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