Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter (née Eleanor Rosalynn Smith)—wife of Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States—has died at the age of 96.
According to a statement released by the Carter Center, Mrs. Carter passed away peacefully at her home in Plains, Georgia, with family by her side. (She had recently moved into hospice care after being diagnosed with dementia earlier this year.) Married in 1946, shortly after Jimmy Carter’s graduation from the United States Naval Academy, the Carters were the longest-wed presidential couple in U.S. history.
During her time at the White House, from 1977 to 1981, Mrs. Carter became known as a committed humanitarian and fierce advocate for mental health. Among her husband’s most trusted confidantes, she attended many of President Carter’s cabinet meetings and traveled abroad to meet with various heads of state. She also brought her own sense of style to the White House’s décor: “Carter is the first First Lady to make a major effort to bring the 20th century to the White House interior design,” the Washington Post reported approvingly in 1977. Her additions included important examples of “American pottery and glassware, wrought iron napkin rings, honeysuckle and white oak baskets filled with cornshuck and woodshaving flowers, and favors of handmade books.” So too did she have a distinctive approach to entertaining: “white wine instead of hard liquor, classical music instead of nightclub humor, and open houses for the handicapped and the aged as well as politicians and potentates.” Mrs. Carter especially loved an elaborate holiday display, dressing the White House’s Christmas trees with things like nut pods and Victorian dolls.