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Rosalynn Carter

Support pours in after death of former first lady Rosalynn Carter

U.S. political figures, social justice leaders and celebrities are mourning the loss of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who paved a path as a fierce advocate for overlooked people and champion for mental health.

The Carter Center announced the former first lady had died Sunday afternoon at her home in Plains, Georgia. She was 96. Carter, who was married for more than seven decades to the man who would become the 39th president, entered hospice care Friday. She was diagnosed with dementia in May.

Throughout her marriage to former President Jimmy Carter, Eleanor Rosalynn Carter was a steady support, providing counsel during her husband's political career and continuing through his years as an activist for housing stability and fair elections. The woman dubbed the "steel magnolia" during her White House years created an independent legacy and used her platform to improve access to mental health care and promote equal rights.

An outpouring of support and condolences followed the announcement of the former first lady's death. She is survived by her 99-year-old husband, four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Bidens: Carter fought for the 'unseen and uncompensated'

In a statement Sunday, President Joe Biden said Carter inspired the nation and the world.

"Throughout her incredible life as First Lady of Georgia and the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn did so much to address 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."

Speaking to reporters on Sunday evening, Biden said Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter “brought grace” to the White House. "He had this great integrity, still does. And she did too,” Biden told journalists as he boarded Air Force One in Norfolk, Virginia. “God bless them.” 

While meeting with service members and their families in Norfolk, Jill Biden remembered Rosalynn Carter's dedication to mental health and caregiving and women's rights, adding, "I hope that during the holidays, you'll include the Carter family in your prayers."

Former presidents, first ladies recall 'champion for human dignity'

Former President Donald Trump said in an online post the late first lady had “earned the admiration and gratitude” of the 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,” Trump said on Truth Social. In a separate statement, former first lady Melania Trump said Carter left a meaningful legacy of service: We will always remember her servant’s heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country. May she rest in peace,” .

Touching on their shared experience as first ladies, former first lady Carter understood the role well and shared the wisdom she'd gleaned firsthand during her years in the White House. The late first lady reminded Obama to "make the role of First Lady my own, just like she did."

"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 said on X. "She advocated for better care for the elderly. She advanced women’s rights. And she remained a champion for those causes – and many others like building affordable housing for those in need and caring for our nation’s caregivers – in the more than four decades that followed."

Former President in a separate statement that, "Rosalynn Carter’s 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."

Former President as a woman of dignity and strength.

“There was no greater advocate of President Carter, and their partnership set a wonderful example of loyalty and fidelity. She leaves behind an important legacy in her work to destigmatize mental health,” he said in a statement joined by former first lady Laura Bush.

Former President Carter offered the world the "embodiment of a life lived with purpose," calling her a champion for human dignity.

"Throughout her long, remarkable life, she was an unwavering voice for the overlooked and underrepresented," Clinton said in a statement with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Showed 'unmatched moral leadership,' saw health as a human right

Vice President Kamala Harris that Carter lived a life of “service, faith, compassion, and unmatched moral leadership.” She redefined the role of first lady, Harris said.

“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,” Harris said. “On her trips abroad, Mrs. Carter worked to advance human rights and human dignity.”

Former Vice President Al Gore recalled Carter and called her a "remarkable leader," saying on X, "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,"

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson on Sunday said he and his wife will keep the former president and his family in their prayers. that the Carters during their years of public life “were an outstanding example of love and devotion to one another, and to others through their years of public service and extraordinary charitable works.”

Former House Speaker Carter as a "pioneer" on the world stage and a “saintly and revered public servant” driven by her "profound faith," compassion and kindness.

“Her historic, high-stakes diplomatic mission to Latin America in 1977 ushered in a new era of engagement in the region," Pelosi said in a statement. "Two years later, she became the first sitting First Lady to address the World Health Organization, where she argued that mental health was an aspect of physical health – and that health is a human right."

Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family and former first lady of California, said Carter had served her country with “strength and grace.”

“She was someone I got to work alongside of, and someone I deeply respected,” on X. “Thank you, Mrs. Carter for everything you did, for the way you used your voice, for the love you exuded. My deepest condolences to the love of her life, former President Jimmy Carter, and to their entire family. ❤️”

Georgia officials honor Carter's resilience and compassion

Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia politician and voting rights advocate, said, “With every moment, Rosalynn Carter showed the world the resilience of the human spirit.” , “We thank her for serving the least of these + for giving mental health a voice in a damning silence.”

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. long presided, paid tribute to the former first lady in a post on X, remembering a woman “who made a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals.”

“I’ve been blessed to know President and Mrs. Carter, and to call them friends,” . “Rosalynn Carter was a force of nature, a compassionate advocate, and a genuine friend to everyone she encountered –a great human being.”

Fellow Georgia Senator Carter will be remembered for her compassionate nature and passion for women’s rights, human rights and mental health reform.

“The State of Georgia and the United States are better places because of Rosalynn Carter,” Ossoff said in a statement. “I join all Georgians and Americans in mourning her loss. May Rosalynn Carter’s memory be a blessing.”

Habitat for Humanity said on X that members of the Georgia-based affordable housing organization the Carters supported for decades were saddened by the news. Carter had been “a compassionate and committed champion" for the group who "worked fiercely to help families around the world,” the post said.

Lauded as champion for memory care, mental health, ERA

One historian has said that Carter prided herself on being an activist first lady, working tirelessly to improve mental health care and remove the stigma around mental illnesses. She also advocated for better care for the elderly, women's rights and other causes.

The former first lady chose to go public with her diagnosis of dementia in hopes that her candor would help others and lift the veil of secrecy around memory loss, according to Carter biographer Jonathan Alter. She felt it was important to support and champion the work of caregivers, he said earlier this year.

The Alzheimer's Association also lauded Carter for creating the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI) and working for decades "to improve the lives of family caregivers through (RCI)," the . "She leaves behind a legacy of inspiring action and change."

Many highlighted Carter's outspoken advocacy for people with mental illnesses.

"If only we could consider mental illnesses as straightforwardly as we do physical illnesses, those affected could seek help and be treated in an open and effective way," former White House official on X on Sunday, quoting the former first lady.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a member of the bipartisan Senate mental health caucus, to mental health advocacy and described her as an "invaluable source of guidance and strength" for former President Carter.

"Her life was one of service to the nation," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I visited President Carter and Rosalynn at their home in Georgia a few years ago, where she made us Pimento Cheese sandwiches, and she was as endearing and wise as ever. America will miss her.”

The organization Equal Means Equal, a national non-profit that advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment, said it was heartbroken by the death of Carter, a warrior for equality, who "fought hard" for a level playing field for women, in a post.

Family of Martin Luther King Jr. recall 'beautiful legacy'

On Sunday, Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife Arndrea Waters King expressed condolences on X.

“(We) hold the Carter family in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn the loss of a mother, grandmother and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter,” . “Truly a life well lived and a beautiful legacy. May her life continue to inspire us. Rest easy on the wings of eternity.”

Activist Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, also mourned the loss of Carter, noting that she was "a remarkable woman and dear friend of the King family and The King Center," she said on X.

Baptist leader, WHO official saddened by loss

Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared condolences on X "on behalf of millions of Southern Baptists," with the former president, his family and congregants of the Baptist church in Plains where the former president regularly taught Sunday school.

The former first lady was a devout Baptist and in December 2006, Carter was ordained a deacon at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, who is among the many international figures pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza, said in a post on X that he was saddened by the former first lady’s passing.

“My deepest condolences to the Carter family and the American people,” . “The First Lady was an outstanding champion for health and equity. Her legacy must not be forgotten.”

Celebrities, philanthopist share admiration for late first lady

Singing and acting legend Barbra Streisand an "amazing couple," adding, "How many marriages last 77 years?"

Comedian and actor Wanda Sykes Carter as "a true inspiration and a woman of substance" who “brought compassion and advocacy to the forefront.”

"Wonder Woman" star Lynda Carter said the former first chose to tackle an "unenviable task" and did so "with strength and grace." "She showed us what it meant to be a champion for the American people and a public servant long beyond the call of duty," on X. "We will miss you, Mrs. Carter."

In a post on X, actor George Takei called Carter a treasure.

“A great soul has passed,” on Sunday. “A humanitarian through to the end, she was a fierce advocate for mental health issues. She brought grace and kindness to the White House.” 

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates in a tribute on X called the former first lady "an extraordinary woman" who left the world a better place and addressed mental health at a time when few public figures did. 

“Rosalynn refused to let stigma be an excuse for silence. She took up the cause with courage and compassion,” . “I am grateful that I got to know her and for the legacy she leaves behind.”

National athletes, Atlanta teams commemorate Carter

Two-time Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia shared a photo on Sunday of her mother Cleo with the former first lady at the White House in 1980. Babilonia won a gold medal in the 1979 World Figure Skating Championships in Vienna during Jimmy Carter's presidency. 

“My 💔 hurts! Rest In Power #RosalynnCarter,” . “Condolences to the Carter family @CarterCenter. I cherish this image.”

Two Georgia sports teams, the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks, also paid tribute and offered their condolences to the Carter family.

"The Atlanta Braves are deeply saddened by the passing of humanitarian and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter," the on X. Some fans posted images of the Carters , saying the pair had been caught more than once smooching on the big screen.

Billie Jean King, winner of 39 tennis Grand Slam titles, said on X the Carter was family in her thoughts.

“Rosalynn Carter was an advocate for mental health, and a champion for equality and human rights,” . “May she rest in peace.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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