The former First Lady, a trailblazing mental health and equal rights advocate, passed away at age 96 Nov. 19 at her home in Plains, Georgia. She died peacefully, with family by her side, the family's Atlanta-based nonprofit organization the Carter Center said in a statement, two days after revealing that she entered hospice care at home and more than five months after announcing that she had been diagnosed with dementia.
"Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished," her husband of 77 years, President Carter, said in a statement provided by the center. "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."
The former president, a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, had himself entered hospice care in February after a series of short hospital stays and after declining additional medical intervention, his organization had said at the time. At age 99, he is the oldest and longest-living president in U.S. history.
In addition to the U.S. leader, Rosalynn is also survived by their children John William "Jack" Carter, 76, James Earl "Chip" Carter III, 73, Donnel Jeffrey "Jeff" Carter, 71, and Amy Carter, 56, as well as 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.
"Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right," Chip said in a statement provided by the Carter Center. "Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today."
Rosalynn was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in 1927 in Plains, Georgia. She graduated Georgia Southwestern College in 1946. Later that year, she married her husband, who had just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. She was 18 and he was 21 at the time. They were the longest-married presidential couple.
Throughout her life, Rosalynn was an advocate of mental health, caregiving and equal rights.
She also championed immunizing children against preventable disease. When her husband was president amid a measles outbreak, she worked to make vaccinations a routine public health practice and by 1981, 95 percent of children entering school were immunized against measles and other diseases, according to her bio on her memorial tribute site.
In 1982, the Carters founded the Carter Center, which aims to "improve lives by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and preventing diseases," according to its mission statement.
Five years later, Rosalynn founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern State University. In 2000, the Carter Center and Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health established the Rosalynn Carter Endowed Chair in Mental Health, the first endowed chair in mental health policy at a school of public health.
According to the Carter Center, when asked once how she would like to be remembered, Rosalynn said, "I would like for people to think that I took advantage of the opportunities I had and did the best I could."
Look back at Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's romance below: