Rosalynn Carter, Navy Spouse
Author. Mental Health Advocate. First Lady. Military Spouse. The late Rosalynn Carter was all these things–and more. Wife of President Jimmy Carter and married for 77 years, President Carter said this of his beloved wife: “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.”
And as long as Rosalynn was in the world, she served selflessly, worked tirelessly, and paved the way boldly. Exceptional in these ways from a young age, she first answered the call to help after her father died when she was 13 years old and she assumed the role of caring for her three younger siblings and sewing assistant to her mother. But, despite this hard moment, she graduated valedictorian from high school–and because of this hard moment, she learned from her mother, “You can do what you have to do.”
Rosalynn married future President Carter, then a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, on July 7, 1946 and the two began their military journey, calling home to duty assignments in Hawaii, Virginia, and Connecticut, and welcoming three children along the way. It was not until the death of her father in law that Carter left active duty, though he remained in the Naval Reserve until 1961.
Always Carter’s partner and closest advisor, Rosalynn managed the accounts for the family business and when he ran for the Georgia Senate in 1962, it was Rosalynn who was a crucial part of his campaign team. The same would also be true when he ran for Governor in 1970 and President in 1976.
Once in the White House, Rosalynn knew she wanted her role as First Lady to be “substantial and to create meaningful changes.” She had seen the challenges and truly believed she could help inspire change. She used this time to elevate, bring awareness and resources and to push policy change for mental health–something that would continue to be a lifelong passion to whom TIME would eventually call the “second most powerful person in the United States” in 1979.
After the Presidency, she and former President Carter would continue their efforts for good both locally, stateside, and globally for many decades.
Rosalynn leaves behind her husband, four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren–and these words, written by her husband, 75 years ago, while off serving in the Navy:
“My darling, every time I have ever been away from you I have been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are. While I am away I try to convince myself that you really are not, could not be as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you I fall in love with you all over again. Does that seem strange to you? It doesn't to me. Good bye darling, until tomorrow, Jimmy.”