Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who was widely known as a leading advocate for mental health and dedicated humanitarian, has died at the age of 96, the Carter Center said Sunday.
The center announced that she entered hospice care Friday, months after announcing that she had dementia.
Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, she married former President Jimmy Carter in 1946 and played a key role in all of Carter’s political campaigns, starting with his 1962 race for the Georgia state Senate.
Rosalynn was Jimmy’s closest adviser during his term as president — with aides privately referring to her as “co-president” — during which she focused on improving support for mental health and the elderly.
She expanded the role of first lady, working on her initiatives and sitting in on Cabinet meetings. In 1977, Jimmy sent her on a mission to Latin America to tell dictators he would deny military aid to violators of human rights.
The Washington press called her “the Steel Magnolia” due to her iron will and quiet demeanor.
After Jimmy lost reelection in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, the Carters continued their advocacy through The Carter Center in Atlanta. The nonprofit spearheads efforts to advance human rights, strengthen democracy and fight diseases, including the parasitic guinea worm, around the world.
“The best thing I ever did was marry Rosalynn,” Jimmy said in 2015. “That’s the pinnacle of my life.”
Learn more by clicking the link in our bio. This post was produced and edited by Steff Staples, Dan Cooney and Jackie Hai. Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images.