A timeline of key moments from former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s 96 years

Nov 19, 2023, 12:38 PM

FILE - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, sit toge...

FILE - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, sit together during a reception to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, July 10, 2021, in Plains, Ga. Rosalynn Carter, the closest adviser to Jimmy Carter during his one term as U.S. president and their four decades thereafter as global humanitarians, died Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. She was 96. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)

(AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)

PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — ___

Landmarks and notable events in the life of former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter:

— Aug. 18, 1927: Eleanor Rosalynn Smith is born at her family home in Plains, Georgia. She is the daughter of Wilburn Edgar Smith, a mechanic, and Allie Murray Smith, a seamstress and postal worker.

— Late August 1927: “Miss Lillian” Carter, a neighbor and nurse who delivered Rosalynn, brings her son, Jimmy, nearly 3 years old, to meet the new baby.

— 1940: Rosalynn’s father dies, leaving her to help her mother raise her younger siblings.

— 1945: She begins dating Jimmy Carter, now a Naval Academy midshipman and the brother of her close friend, Ruth Carter.

— Spring 1946: She graduates from Georgia Southwestern College.

— July 7, 1946: She marries Jimmy at Plains Methodist Church, her childhood congregation. They would have four children: John William (“Jack”), born 1947; James Earl III (“Chip”), 1950; Donnel Jeffrey, 1952; and Amy Lynn, 1967.

— 1946-1953: Rosalynn manages the Carter household while Jimmy serves in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program, attaining the rank of lieutenant commander.

— 1955: She begins helping Jimmy in the farm warehouse; she soon “knew more on paper about the business than he did,” she recalled ahead of their 75th anniversary.

— 1962: She helps Jimmy campaign for state Senate, an office he would win in a contested election that was ultimately settled in court.

— 1966: Rosalynn begins campaigning on her own for the first time during Jimmy’s first run for Georgia governor, a race he loses. But their model of campaigning separately would be key to winning four years later and to capturing the presidency in 1976.

— 1975-76: She leads the “Peanut Brigade” of Carter family, friends and supporters from Georgia who spread out across Iowa and other key nominating states to widen the campaign’s person-to-person reach. The same model they used in Georgia revolutionizes presidential campaigning, with Rosalynn as Jimmy’s top surrogate.

— Jan. 20, 1977: Rosalynn, the newly sworn-in 39th president and their family draw special attention on Inauguration Day by walking down Pennsylvania Avenue rather than riding in an armored limousine. The Carters enroll daughter Amy in a Washington, D.C., public school that is majority-Black. In Atlanta, when Carter was governor, Amy had attended private school.

— Summer 1977: Rosalynn makes a 13-day diplomatic trip to seven Latin American nations and Caribbean islands. She also urges Jimmy to delay action on treaties yielding control of the Panama Canal, arguing it is too politically costly for a first term. He proceeds with the treaties.

— September 1978: Rosalynn is with Jimmy at Camp David for much of the intense negotiations with Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. She listens to and advises the president daily before the three leaders reach the Camp David Accords. Begin and Sadat both warm to the first lady, and Sadat becomes especially close to the Carters.

— November 1979: Rosalynn leads a delegation to Cambodian refugee camps, bringing international media attention to the humanitarian crisis. She convinces the president to admit more refugees to the U.S.

— Summer and fall 1980: She campaigns nearly daily on Jimmy’s behalf, while he stays at the White House working to win the release of American hostages in Iran.

— 1980: She helps win congressional approval for the Mental Health Systems Act, dedicating more federal money to local centers for treating mental health; Republican Ronald Reagan would later reverse course as president.

— November 1980: Jimmy Carter is denied a second term by Reagan, who wins 51.6 percent of the popular vote to 41.7 percent for Carter and 6.7 percent for independent John Anderson.

— 1982: The Carters co-found The Carter Center in Atlanta with a mission of resolving conflicts, protecting human rights, advocating democracy and preventing disease around the world.

— 1984: Rosalynn releases her memoir, “First Lady from Plains,” in which she admits to missing Washington. It is the first of her five books.

— September 1984: She travels to New York City, where the Carters volunteer building homes for Habitat for Humanity; this would become their annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

— 1987: She establishes the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, located at her collegiate alma mater, to advocate for Americans who are unpaid caregivers.

— Summer 1989: Rosalynn travels with Jimmy on a weeklong Africa tour that includes an international conference on Guinea worm eradication, perhaps The Carter Center’s most ambitious public health initiative.

— 1996: She establishes the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, based at The Carter Center, to help working journalists produce better reporting on the topic.

— 1999: She is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

— July 10, 2007: She testifies before a U.S. House subcommittee, urging Congress to require that health insurance policies cover mental health treatment on par with treatment for other illness.

— November 2016: She hosts the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy for the 32nd time.

— October 2019: In Nashville, the Carters participate in person for the last time in their Habitat for Humanity work project; the program would continue.

— April 30, 2021: The Carters receive President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at their home in Plains. The couples were friends since the 1976 campaign, when Biden, then a young lawmaker from Delaware, became the first U.S. senator to endorse Carter for president.

— July 7, 2021: The Carters celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary. Offering advice for a successful marriage, she says, “each (person) should have some space. That’s really important.”

— Feb. 18, 2023: The Carter family announces that Jimmy is entering home hospice care. They would later say they thought he would live only days but rebounded to celebrate their 77th wedding anniversary and his 99th birthday later in the year.

— May 30, 2023: The family announces that Rosalynn has dementia.

— Sept. 23, 2023: The Carters make a surprise appearance in the Plains Peanut Festival parade, riding in a Secret Service vehicle with the windows down for what would be her last public appearance.

— May 17, 2023: The Carter family announces that she has entered home hospice care.

— Nov. 19, 2023. Rosalynn Carter dies at home in Plains in the same house where the Carters lived when Jimmy was elected to the state Senate in 1962.

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A timeline of key moments from former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s 96 years