On Wednesday, former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter celebrated 75 years of marriage. This union spans decades in public service, from rural Georgia to Washington.
They have been side-by-side for long life, navigating a path that was shaped by Carter’s Oval Office turn but driven by their unyielding passion to serve others. The Carters, together, have refined the role as former first families through their extensive volunteer work building homes and still fighting for peace overseas.
Jimmy Carter, a former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate has described Rosalynn’s marriage as “a pinnacle in my life.”
He once stated, “Marrying Rosalynn was the best thing I did.”
The longest presidential marriage, which began before Barack Obama and Bill Clinton was born, didn’t start with a simple “yes.” “When Jimmy was a young student at the US Naval Academy, Rosalynn Smith was the first to propose — so she was known then, she rejected him due to a promise she made at thirteen to her dying father that when she was finished with college, she would marry.
She kept her promise, and they were married after she graduated from Georgia Southwestern College.
Rosalynn her memoir, “First lady from plains”, recounts how the couple grew up three and a half years apart.
Rosalynn was the only girl in her town who was her age. Rosalynn was best friends with Jimmy’s younger brother. She wrote, “I thought that he was one of the most handsome young men I had ever seen.”
Jimmy and the girl he was with went on their first date in summer 1945. After that, Jimmy informed his mother that “She’s my dream girl.” The couple married the next year.
The Carters brought their unique combination of sincerity, conviction to every stop on the road to the highest office in the country. Jimmy left active Navy service in 1953 and spent his time raising his children and running his family’s peanut farm. He also took his first steps in politics, becoming a Georgia senator in 1962.
He had already captured Georgia’s governorship by 1970. Six years later, he was elected President. While Jimmy was the one who sat at Resolute Desk, Rosalynn commanded immense influence in the White House.
Jill Stuckey is a long-time friend of the Carters and said that Rosalynn trusted him “above all others.”
Rosalynn is a trusted advisor who is selfless. He is certain that she looks out for others. Stuckey stated that he doesn’t know if President Carter would be president without Rosalynn.
Gerald Rafshoon was the White House communications director during Carter’s presidency. He described Rosalynn to him as his “best advisor” who “isn’t afraid to tell him what he’s wrong, and when it’s right, she would fight until the end to support him.”
He told CNN that the pair sometimes spoke in Spanish to one another during meetings so they could communicate one-on-one.
“We would say, “Oh, gosh, they are speaking in Spanish.” Rafshoon stated, “We’ve lost this argument.”
After a term marked by inflation at home, conflict abroad, and Jimmy’s inability to win reelection, Jimmy and his wife channeled their passion for politics into remarkable volunteer work and advocacy for global democracy.
Kate Andersen Brower, journalist, and author, said that Jimmy Carter’s defeat in reelection was a “feeling of wanting to redeem oneself.” “And then, I think there’s also a bit of anger — and kinda feeling overlooked that has really galvanized them and spurred their actions in a way that was different from when they were just one term. They are a unit, not a team.
The Carter Center, an Atlanta-based organization, has been monitoring hotspot elections and negotiating with despots for nearly 40 years. It also fights poverty and homelessness and promotes public health in developing countries.
With the Jimmy & Rosalynn Cart Work Project, they have built, renovated, or repaired over 4,300 homes with more than 100,000 volunteers from 14 countries.
Brower stated, “I believe that their post-presidency will be what’s going to determine both of their legacies since it was so lengthy.”
Church has been a constant part of Carter’s post-presidency lifestyle. Since leaving the White House in 1981, the couple has been attending Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia. Jimmy Carter started teaching Sunday School there several years later. He has taught hundreds of lessons at this church.
Amazingly, Carters’ unflagging public service has survived multiple health problems over the years.
Each of them was hospitalized in 2019, Jimmy receiving hip surgery following a fall while on his way to turkey hunting, and Rosalynn being taken in for observation after feeling faint days later. In late 2015, the former President announced that he had defeated cancer in his liver as well as his brain.
Jimmy wrote “A Full Life”, a book he published in the same year.—At 96, he is the oldest living ex-presidentRosalynn and he said they were blessed with good health. They look forward to the future with enthusiasm and confidence and are ready for any adversity that may come.
He was back building Habitat homes for Habitat for humanity just a few days after he had suffered the first of many falls in 2019. Rosalynn was there to support him.
Stuckey stated that they will not give up if they have their minds set on something. They put everything into it. They exercise, eat right and stay active because they understand the importance of being there for a project. They want to live as long as possible to help as many people as possible.
When asked by Jake Tapper, CNN’s Jake Tapper 2015, Jimmy Carter replied that the secret to a lasting marriage was to choose the right woman. We give each other the space to do our things.
He said, “We try and be reconciled before going to bed at night. We try to find all we can that we enjoy doing together.” So we have many good times.”