When it comes to love, people either believe in true love or that love can withstand any obstacles. But no matter what, there is one couple in general who embodies true love the very best. Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, were married for more than 77 years, meeting for the first time when they were only babies.
Sadly, their love story ended Sunday, as Rosalynn passed away at age 96. They were together until the end and never stopped loving each other.
Two years ago, for their 75th anniversary, Jimmy and Rosalynn sat down for an interview about their marriage. And, of course, the couple revealed new things about their marriage and what was still making it unique every day.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter knew each other from the day she was born.
His mother, Lillian Carter, was working as a nurse when, one day, her neighbor, Frances Smith, went into labor. Lillian decided to help deliver the baby – and Eleanor Rosalynn was born.
The following day, Rosalynn met Jimmy, then three years old, for the first time. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey they would embark on together, including a stint in the White House and much more.
Jimmy Carter & Rosalynn Carter – a 77-year love story
Jimmy and Rosalynn grew up in the rural town of Plains, Georgia, home to only 600 people. She initially became best friend’s with Jimmy’s sister, Ruth, but it wasn’t until they became teenagers that Jimmy and Rosalynn began to notice each other. Jimmy grew up and decided he wanted to embark on a career in the military. Before joining the United States Naval Academy, he attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
He served as a submariner in both the Atlantic and Pacific, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Carter received his B.S. degree in 1946 – and by that stage, a girl back home had grown fond of him.
By the time Jimmy left Plains for the United States Naval Academy, Rosalynn Carter had already fallen in love with him. In the 2020 book What Makes a Marriage Last, Rosalynn described how she saw a photograph of him that his sister, Ruth, had on her bedroom wall.
“I didn’t know a single boy I thought I’d want to spend my life with until Jimmy Carter came calling,” Rosalynn explained.
When Jimmy returned to Plains on a break from the Naval Academy, his then-girlfriend was away at a family reunion, meaning he missed the opportunity to see her.
“I was cruising around with my sister, Ruth, and her boyfriend, just looking for a date, and I picked up Rosalynn in front of the Methodist church,” Jimmy recalled in What Makes a Marriage Last.
“I just felt compatible with her. She was beautiful and innocent, and there was a resonance. We rode in the rumble seat of a Ford pickup – Ruth and her boyfriend in the front – and I kissed her on that first date. I remember that vividly.”
“The moon was full in the sky, conversation came easy, and I was in love,” Rosalynn wrote in her memoir First Lady from Plains about their first date.
Jimmy Carter & Rosalynn Carter – marriage, children
Jimmy and Rosalynn began dating in 1945 – and never left each other’s side. The couple married on July 7, 1946, and despite Jimmy being deployed to different parts of the world, she followed him everywhere.
But the fact that the couple married so quickly wasn’t always on the cards. In fact, when Jimmy asked her to marry him for the first time in February, Rosalynn said no. That was because of the promise the then-future first lady had made to her father, who passed away when she was 13, that she would graduate from college before marrying.
While she eventually broke that promise, nothing can hold back true love.
“From then until late May, she maintained, ‘No,’” Carter told Oprah in 2015. “I kept trying, and finally, she said okay.”
Jimmy and Rosalynn welcomed three children in the next six years. Jack was born in 1947, Chip in 1950, and Jefferey in 1952. Later, in 1967, they welcomed their fourth child and only daughter, Amy Lynn.
While life had become quieter for the couple, they also had difficulties. Jimmy and Rosalynn had trouble adjusting to marriage like many couples, which the former president spoke about in an interview with Playboy.
“We’ve come to understand each other much better. I was by far the dominant person in the marriage at the beginning, but not anymore,” he said.
Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter revealed the secret behind their long marriage
“She’s just as strong, if not stronger than I am. She’s fully equal to me in every way in our relationship, in making business decisions, and she makes most of the decisions about family affairs. And I think it was a struggle for her to achieve this degree of independence and equality in our personal relationship. So, to summarize, years ago, we had a lot of quarrels—none serious, particularly—but now we don’t.”
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter withstood challenging and stressful times, but nothing could keep them apart.
In October 2019, they surpassed the record set by the late George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, for the longest-married presidential couple at 26,765 days, according to the Carter Center.
So, what was the secret to their marriage?
On their 75th wedding anniversary, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter gave a rare interview about their marriage. They both revealed how they used cute gestures for each other, which kept their bond stronger than ever.
“We have grown closer to each other. We’ve learned from each other. And we have learned to accommodate each other’s idiosyncrasies,” Jimmy Carter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we’ve learned how to give each other plenty of space. We can each do our own thing and the other one absent.”
Rosalynn revealed that the small, everyday things her husband did made her even more in love with him.
“Jimmy is really kind and he will hold out his hand, take my hand when we are walking down the street or sitting in the car. Squeeze my hand. Those kinds of things draw me closer to him,” the former first lady revealed.
“We give each other plenty of space”
“I think our partnership started before (his presidency) when I was keeping books at our farm supply business. It was not too long before I got to know more about the business on paper than he knew about it and I could advise him. For instance, once we started doing peanuts and cotton and we started shelling corn, I realized from the books that we were not making any money. That we were losing money. I could advise him,” Rosalynn Carter added. “So that is how I think our partnership developed. That was the beginning of it.”
Being together for so long is an incredible achievement. And according to Jimmy Carter, giving each other space is the secret.
“We’ve had a kind of policy on which we’ve agreed,” Carter explained during a 2019 press conference. “We give each other plenty of space to do our own things. And we try to find things we like to do together, and we try to concentrate on them. We took up downhill skiing when I was 62 years old. She was 59. We’ve taken up bird-watching and playing tennis and fly-fishing. So we’ve got a lot of common things we do together.”
Being deeply in love doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is always perfect. After all, we are all humans with different opinions, and arguments are part of being together.
Of course, this was also the case for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. In their 75th wedding anniversary interview, the former president stated that he wanted others to know that, like many other couples, they also have arguments.
Rosalynn Carter dead at 96
However, at that point in life, most arguments were about Jimmy Carter forgetting that Rosalynn had hearing aids and that he had to talk loudly for her to hear him.
Meanwhile, he gave some advice on moving past rough times.
“We try to forgive each other every night for any differences we may have had during the day. We try to read the Bible every day. Most of the time late in the evening,” Jimmy Carter said. “And we try to reconcile and never go to sleep with any lingering argument.”
It’s not only by beautiful words the two showed their love for each other through the years. In his 1995 book Always a Reckoning, Jimmy Carter included a poem named “Rosalynn” to honor his wife.
“With shyness gone and hair caressed with gray, her smile still makes the birds forget to sing and me to hear their song,” Carter wrote.
Earlier this year, Jimmy Carter entered home hospice care after declining medical help for several health issues. Just days ago, Rosalynn also entered hospice care at home after being diagnosed with dementia in May.
Sadly, their incredible love story ended at 77 years of marriage. On Sunday, November 19, the family announced that Rosalynn Carter had passed away, aged 96.
She is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it”
The former first lady reportedly died peacefully with her family by her side.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy Carter said about his wife.
“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.”
Her son Chip Carter added, “Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right. 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.”
If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d be interested in reading about how Rosalynn Carter cared for her sick dad – and how her family returned the favor
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter are proof that love can win over anything. We hope she will rest in peace and that they will be reunited one day