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Rosalynn Carter honored in service attended by Jimmy Carter

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Humanitarian and former first lady Rosalynn Carter was honored Tuesday at a tribute service in Georgia, with her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, in attendance. President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and all the living former first ladies were also present.

Rosalynn Carter died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96. Jimmy Carter, her husband of 77 years who turned 99 last month, was by her side in her final moments, her son said last week. Jimmy Carter has been in hospice care at home since February. 

Former President Jimmy Carter attends a tribute service for his wife former first lady Rosalynn Carter, at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Nov. 28, 2023.

Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein


Their son, James “Chip” Carter III, offered a tribute to his mother, recalling how she mended his torn Lyndon B. Johnson shirts, loved the campaign trail, and encouraged him to enter rehab for his addiction struggles. 

“She saved my life,” he said.

The second-eldest son of the four Carter children shared fond memories of his mother’s love for adventure, and of her rock-solid faith. 

“My mother, Rosalynn Carter, was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. And pretty to look at, too,” he concluded. 

The vice chair of the Carter Center, Kathryn Cade, recalled how the former first lady was a “full participant” in leading the nation. The former first lady, Cade said, sought to alleviate suffering, support caregivers, advocate for equal rights, and remove the stigma attached to mental illness.

“She never sought fame, fortune or accolades for the work that she did,” Cade said. “… In so many different ways, she promoted a more caring society.” 

Jimmy Carter used a wheelchair to attend Tuesday’s service. His own health has been precarious and he entered hospice care in February. James Carter III told The Washington Post last week that his father had to have a new suit made since none of his suits fit him due to his declining health.

The Carters have four children and 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The grandchildren served as honorary pallbearers, the Carter Center said.

A military honor guard carries the casket of former first lady Rosalynn Carter from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum en route to a memorial service at Emory University’s Glenn Memorial Church, in Atlanta, Georgia, Nov. 28, 2023.

Eric S. Lesser/Pool via Reuters


Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter had been married since Rosalynn was 18, and she was an indispensable partner in his political life. 

“What a love story,” journalist Judy Woodruff said in her tribute. “For 77 years, they adored each other, and had much in common — intelligence, compassion, curiosity, courage, and apparently, they could both be a little stubborn. She often said the most challenging time in their marriage was when they co-authored a book.”

Amy Carter, the Carters’ daughter, shared a letter Jimmy Carter wrote to his wife 75 years ago when he was away in the Navy.

“My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I have been thrilled when I return to discover just how wonderful you are,” the letter read. “… Goodbye, darling. Until tomorrow, Jimmy.”


Love letter from Jimmy to Rosalynn Carter read by their daughter, Amy Lynn

Various family members played roles in Tuesday’s service, with descendants reading Bible verses. The service also featured some of Rosalynn Carter’s favorite music performed by artists she loved, including pianist David Osborne, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus and family friends Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

The Bidens, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama arrived at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church shortly before the service. They were greeted by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.

In addition to Clinton and Obama, former first ladies Laura Bush and Melania Trump also attended Tuesday’s service, along with former President Bill Clinton.

Carter grandson Jason Carter started his remarks by welcoming the former first ladies and Dr. Biden, and then acknowledging Jill Biden and Hillary Clinton’s “lovely husbands.” The line prompted laughs from the attendees.


Rosalynn Carter remembered for foresight, love and strength by grandson Jason

On Wednesday, there will be a funeral procession to Maranatha Baptist Church in the Carters’ hometown of Plains, Georgia, where a funeral service will take place for friends and family. Her casket will then be transferred to a hearse that will then head to the Carter family residence for a private interment. 

Rosalynn Carter lay in repose on Monday at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, where members of the public were invited to pay their respects. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex at Georgia Southwestern State University, which both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter attended.

Gests arrive before a tribute service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University on November 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Brynn Anderson / Getty Images




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