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Rosalynn Carter, Wife Of The 39th President Who Was Known For Her Activism, Dies At 96

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This story has been updated to reflect the latest information on former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s passing. 

Rosalynn Carter, the wife of the 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter who blazed a trail, died on Sunday, with family by her side at her home in Plains, Georgia. She was 96.

Carter was an active and politically astute first lady — her support played a significant role in his political career, both at the state and national levels — while advocating for various causes.

Eleanor Rosalynn Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, on Aug. 18, 1927, the first of four children of Allethea Murray Smith and Wilburn Edgar Smith. When she was 13, her father died of leukemia and her mother became a dressmaker to help support the family. As the oldest child, Rosalynn worked beside her mother, helping with the sewing, the housekeeping and the other children while attending high school.

After graduating from Plains High School as salutatorian, she enrolled in Georgia Southwestern College. In 1945, after her freshman year, she started to date Jimmy Carter, who was home from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and, in 1946, they got married.

Jimmy Carter’s naval career kept them on the move. During this time, they had three of their four children: John (Jack) William, James Earl III and Donnel Jeffrey. The Carters’ only daughter, Amy Lynn, was born in 1967.

When Jimmy Carter’s father died in 1953, he left the service, and they returned to Plains to run the family business, where she worked with her husband managing the accounts of the peanut, fertilizer and seed enterprise.

Jimmy Carter entered politics in 1962, winning a seat in the Georgia Senate and the governorship of Georgia in 1970. Carter participated in his campaigns, including when he was running for president, a position he won in 1976. (He was in office 1977 to 1981.)

Rosalynn Carter attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, represented her husband at ceremonial occasions and served as the president’s personal emissary when needed. Among her focuses were the performing arts and mental health; from 1977 to 1978, she served as the honorary chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.

After her husband left office, they founded the Carter Center in 1982 with the goal of alleviating human suffering and…

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