Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday at age 96. She had gone onto home hospice Saturday, almost 10 months after her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, 99, had gone onto home hospice care.

President Carter remains at his home in Plains, Ga. Arrangements for services have not been announced.

The Carter Center had announced Friday that hospice staff had begun treating the former first lady in her Plains, Georgia home where her husband Jimmy was already receiving the ‘palliative care’ regimen.

Jimmy Carter had hospital stays earlier this year and was placed on hospice care at his Plains home in February. 

In May, the Carter Center announced that the former first lady had been diagnosed with dementia.

The longest-married presidential couple, the Carters marked their 77th wedding anniversary in July.

A humanitarian and mental health advocate, Rosalynn (pronounced ROSE a lynn) Carter founded the Carter Center with her husband after leaving the White House to advance world peace and health.

Together, they have traveled to hotspots around the world, including Cuba, Sudan, Israel and North Korea, monitoring elections and working to eradicate Guinea worm disease and other neglected tropical diseases. Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

The former first lady was a significant and influential figure in the White House during her husband’s single term, 1977 to 1981, helping him try to restore the nation’s trust in the presidency as the country continued to recover from the Watergate scandal.

In September, the couple made a surprise visit to the Plains Peanut Festival in Plains, Ga., on Carter’s 99th birthday.

Jimmy Carter is now the oldest former president and has lived the longest time as a former president.

After the presidency, the two Carters did a world of humanitarian work. They were leaders – and pretty good carpenters – in Habitat for Humanity. Hundreds of formerly homeless are now in homes built in part by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  

While an ex-president, Carter taught his popular Sunday School class in the Plains Baptist Church for over 40 years. 

The Carters have a lot of connections to the state of Alabama. While governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter was considered by the national media as a “new south governor.” He was contrasted with Alabama Governor George Wallace, who was portrayed as a populist and a challenger to the power of the federal government.

Carter and Wallace ran against each other in the 1976 Florida presidential primary. Wallace was running out of a wheelchair following his being shot in the 1972 assassination attempt in the Maryland primary. Carter was at the time considered a dark horse candidate. Carter’s victory over Wallace and others in Florida may have been the breakthrough that led the way to winning the Democratic nomination and defeating incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford.

Carter’s fundraiser in the 1976 presidential campaign was Morris Dees of Montgomery, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Carters were collaborators with Millard Fuller of Lanett, Alabama, founder of Habitat for Humanity. Through Fuller’s influence, the two Carters became the most visible supporters of building homes for the homeless through their physical work and fundraising.

Jimmy Carter’s Mother, “Miss Lillian” Carter, was a house mother at Auburn University for the Kappa Alpha fraternity, the “old south” fraternity, complete with a cannon and Confederate re-enactment uniforms.

Historians will likely say that Jimmy Carter did more as a former president than any except President John Quincy Adams, who served in Congress until his dying day and led the abolitionist movement. Compare ex-president Carter to his fellow Democrat ex-presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Carter stands apart as an unselfish difference-maker.

Even Americans who did not agree with Jimmy Carter’s politics are now joining in prayer for Carter and the family, the longest first couple, the oldest first couple. They lived abundant lives.

Jim Zeigler is former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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