'Extraordinary': Tributes and remembrances for Rosalynn Carter after her death

Son Chip Carter called her "a great humanitarian in her own right."

November 19, 2023, 9:07 PM

Reactions, tributes and grief quickly began pouring in on Sunday afternoon at the news that former first lady Rosalynn Carter had just died at the age of 96.

"She was well known for her efforts on mental health and caregiving and women's rights. So I hope that during the holidays, you'll consider saying [you'll] include the Carter family in your prayers," first lady Jill Biden said while attending a holiday meal with service members at a naval station in Norfolk, Virginia.

President Joe Biden also paid tribute to Rosalynn Carter Sunday evening while departing Norfolk.

The president described the Carters as an "incredible family" who "brought so much grace to the office." Rosalynn Carter had great integrity, Joe Biden said.

"First Lady Rosalynn Carter walked her own path, inspiring a nation and the world along the way," the Bidens later said in a statement.

Among an "incredible life" as first lady, Rosalynn Carter's other accomplishments included addressing many of society's greatest needs, from championing equal rights for women and girls, advocating for mental health and wellness, and supporting the "often unseen and uncompensated" caregivers of children, aging loved ones and people with disabilities, the Bidens said.

"Above all, the deep love shared between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter is the definition of partnership, and their humble leadership is the definition of patriotism," the Bidens said. "She lived her life by her faith."

All of the Carters' children and grandchildren were currently with Jimmy Carter and "happy" to be together, Joe Biden said, adding that he had spoken to the Carter family spokesperson earlier on Sunday.

"On behalf of a grateful nation, we send our love to President Carter, the entire Carter family, and the countless people across our nation and the world whose lives are better, fuller and brighter because of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Carter," the Bidens said.

Former President Donald Trump marked Rosalynn Carter's death on social media, calling her a "great humanitarian" and "a champion for mental health."

"Melania and I join all Americans in mourning the loss of Rosalynn Carter," Trump wrote. "She was a devoted First Lady, a great humanitarian, a champion for mental health, and a beloved wife to her husband for 77 years, President Carter."

"Over a life spanning nearly a century, Rosalynn Carter earned the admiration and gratitude of our entire nation," Trump wrote.

Former first lady Melania Trump said in her own statement that "Rosalynn Carter leaves behind a meaningful legacy not only as First Lady but as a wife and mother. We will always remember her servant's heart and devotion to her husband, family, and country. May she rest in peace."

Rosalynn Carter understood "well" that there was no handbook to being first lady and used her platform in "profoundly meaningful ways," former first lady Michelle Obama said.

"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 in a statement posted to social media. "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."

Rosalynn Carter joined Obama for lunch during her own time as first lady, where she would office words of advice and a helping hand, Obama wrote.

"She reminded me to make the role of First Lady my own, just like she did. I'll always remain grateful for her support and her generosity," Obama said.

On behalf of herself and her husband -- former President Barack Obama -- Michelle Obama also posted: "Today, Barack and I join the world in celebrating the remarkable legacy of a First Lady, philanthropist, and advocate who dedicated her life to lifting up others. Her 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. We send our thoughts and prayers to Jimmy and the entire Carter family during this difficult time."

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush called Rosalynn Carter "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," the Bushes said in a statement. "She leaves behind an important legacy in her work to destigmatize mental health. We join our fellow citizens in sending our condolences to President Carter and their family."

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Rosalynn Carter for her work with mental health.

"Rosalynn Carter was a compassionate and committed champion of human dignity everywhere," the couple's statement began.

"Throughout her long, remarkable life, she was an unwavering voice for the overlooked and underrepresented. Thanks to her mental health advocacy, more people live with better care and less stigma. Because of her early leadership on childhood immunization, millions of Americans have grown up healthier. And through her decades of work at the Carter Center and with Habitat for Humanity, she spread hope, health, and democracy across the globe," their statement continued.

"Rosalynn will be forever remembered as the embodiment of a life lived with purpose. Hillary and I are deeply grateful for her extraordinary service to our nation and world, and for more than forty years of friendship. Our prayers are with President Carter, Jack, Chip, Jeff, Amy, and the entire Carter family," their statement concluded.

Former Vice President Al Gore said Rosalynn Carter "was a remarkable leader."

"Unwavering in her partnership with her husband, Jimmy, she built upon the work they did together by championing the causes of mental health, human rights, and the needs of children around the world," he said in a statement.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, in his won statement, hailed Rosalynn Carter for her "indelible impact on our state and nation."

"Working alongside her husband, she championed mental health services and promoted the state she loved across the globe," Kemp said.

Noting that she and Jimmy Carter were the longest married presidential couple in U.S. history, at 77 years, Kemp said, "Like that marriage, her achievements will stand the test of time and continue to be celebrated by those who knew her best."

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said the family was in their prayers.

"Kelly and I are saddened to hear of the passing of First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She and President Carter were an outstanding example of love and devotion to one another, and to others through their years of public service and extraordinary charitable works. President Carter and the Carter family are in our prayers today," he wrote on social media.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Rosalynn Carter brought "transformational change to mental wellness."

President Jimmy Carter is applauded by First Lady Rosalynn Carter and supporters after conceding defeat to Reagan during the 1980 presidential election, Nov 4, 1980.
Wally Mcnamee/Corbis via Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who has at times been critical of Jimmy Carter's presidency and policies -- as recently as this weekend -- offered his own condolences.

"We respect the legacy of people who have served this country," he said, adding, "She sets an example at least of people who have lived long and meaningful lives and [that's] something that we can celebrate and hopefully set as a shining example of positivity."

In announcing Rosalynn Carter's death, The Carter Center, which she started with her husband after leaving the White House, called her "a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women's rights."

The Carter Center said she died earlier on Sunday "with family by her side."

"Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished," Jimmy Carter said in a statement issued by The Carter 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."

Their son Chip, one of their many surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said the former first lady was "extraordinary."

"My mother was a great humanitarian in her own right," Chip Carter said. "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 Carter had entered hospice care last week after being diagnosed with dementia earlier this year, according to The Carter Center.

Jimmy Carter entered hospice care in early 2023.

Memorial and funeral details have not yet been released. The Carter Center has opened a portal for the public to share their own memories.

ABC News' Tia Humphries, Lalee Ibssa, Julia Jacobo, Soo Rin Kim and Kendall Ross contributed to this report.

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