Rosalynn Carter, outspoken former first lady, dies at 96

uuu Copyright Andy Newman/AP
By Kristina Harazim with AP
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Fiercely loyal and compassionate as well as politically astute, Rosalynn Carter prided herself on being an activist first lady while no one doubted her behind-the-scenes influence.


Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, the closest adviser to Jimmy Carter during his one term as US president and their four decades thereafter as global humanitarians has died at the age of 96.

Tributes are pouring in for Rosalynn who was diagnosed with dementia in May and entered hospice care on Friday.

A statement from the Carter Centre said she died peacefully with family by her side at 2:10 pm at her rural home in the Great Plains.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden released a statement describing Mrs Carter as ''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, ageing loved ones, and people with disabilities.''

Her 99-year-old husband, ex-US President Jimmy Carter, who entered hospice care himself in February, also paid his respects in a**statement.**

“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,” he wrote.

The couple was married for more than 77 years, forging what they both described as a “full partnership”. They celebrated their last wedding anniversary in July.

Mrs Carter was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on 18 August 1927.

She married Jimmy Carter on 7 July 1946 and they had four children: Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy. They have 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.

Many presidential aides insisted that her political instincts were better than her husband’s and often enlisted her support for a project before they discussed it with the president. 

When her role in a highly publicised Cabinet shake-up became known, she was forced to declare publicly, “I am not running the government”.

Her iron will, contrasted with her outwardly shy demeanour and soft southern accent, inspired Washington reporters to call her “the Steel Magnolia”.

Jimmy Carter trusted her so much that in 1977, only months into his term, he sent her on a mission to Latin America to tell dictators he meant what he said about denying military aid and other support to violators of human rights.

Throughout her husband's political career, she chose mental health and the problems of the elderly as her signature policy emphasis. When news media failed to cover those efforts as much as she believed was warranted, she criticised reporters for writing only about "sexy subjects".

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