Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter were married for a remarkable 77 years before Rosalynn died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96. They are the longest-married couple in American presidential history.
News of Rosalynn’s death came just several days after the former first lady had entered hospice care at the couple’s home in Plains, Georgia, where Jimmy has also been on hospice since February. In May, The Carter Center, a humanitarian organization the couple founded together, announced that Rosalynn had been diagnosed with dementia.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” the former president, 99, said in a recent statement. “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.”
The Carters grew up in the same small town of Plains, Georgia; Rosalynn was friends with Jimmy’s younger sister Ruth. The couple went on their first date to the movies in 1945 while Jimmy was home for the summer before his final year at the U.S. Naval Academy. Afterwards, Jimmy told his mom: “She’s the girl I want to marry.” In Rosalynn’s 1984 memoir, she wrote of their first date: “The moon was full in the sky, conversation came easy, and I was in love.”
The pair tied the knot on July 7, 1946 in their hometown shortly after Jimmy graduated from college. They went on to have four children and 22 grandkids and great-grandkids.
The couple is known for their steadfast love, support and admiration of one another and have also been candid about the difficult periods in their marriage.
“Their partnership and love story was a defining feature of her life,” the couple’s daughter Amy Carter said in a tribute during Rosalynn’s memorial service on Tuesday.
Below are some of the memorable things the Carters have said about one another and their marriage over the years.
On growing up together:
“I spent a lot of time at [the Carters’] house, but he was always off at school. He was so good to Ruth. He would write her letters, and she talked about him all the time. And she had his photograph on the wall in her bedroom. And I literally did fall in love with that photograph.” — Rosalynn told ABC News in 2021
On how he felt after their first date:
“I can’t really quantify it or describe it in words. But I knew that she was quiet. She was extremely intelligent. She was very timid, by the way, beautiful, and there was just something about her that was irresistible.” — Jimmy told Oprah in 2015
On missing her while serving in the Navy:
“My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I have been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are. While I’m away, I try to convince myself that you really are not — could not be — as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again. Does that seem strange to you? It doesn’t to me.” — Jimmy wrote to Rosalynn in a letter 75 years ago
On building their partnership:
“Over the years, we became not only friends and lovers, but partners. He has always thought I could do anything, and because of that, I/we have had some wonderful adventures and challenges.” — Rosalynn said at Jimmy’s 90th birthday celebration in 2014
On how their dynamic changed over time:
“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. 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 told Playboy in 1976
On working closely together:
“Jimmy and I had always worked side by side; it’s a tradition in Southern families, and one that is not seen as in any way demeaning to the man. Once the press and our persistent opponents heard about my attendance at the (Cabinet) meetings, very soon it was rumored that I was ‘telling’ Jimmy what to do! They obviously didn’t know Jimmy!” — Rosalynn wrote in her 1994 autobiography “First Lady from Plains”
On Rosalynn’s smile:
“She’d smile, and birds would feel that they no longer had to sing, or it may be I failed to hear their song.” — Jimmy wrote in his 1995 book “Always a Reckoning and Other Poems.”
On their keys to a happy, healthy marriage:
“We have a couple of rules that we follow. We give each other plenty of space. She has a lot of interests that I don’t share. We get together whenever we can. But I have a lot of interests that she doesn’t share. And secondly we’ve had a standing rule that we follow pretty meticulously, sometimes with great difficulty. That is not to go to sleep angry. We have a lot of arguments. We have 21 grandchildren and four children so we have a lot of arguments about our family. But we try to get over that argument before we go to sleep.”— Jimmy told Bill and Melinda Gates in 2017
On how their love has grown over the years:
“For 75 years of marriage we’ve always gone deeper in our love for one another. I think that’s a kind of extraordinary thing. Doesn’t happen to very many couples, but it certainly happened to us.” — Jimmy told Good Morning America in 2021
On the key to longevity:
“It’s hard to live until you’re 95 years old. I think the best explanation for that is to marry the best spouse, someone who will take care of you and engage and do things to challenge you and keep you alive and interested in life.” — Jimmy told People Magazine in 2019
On the best thing that ever happened to him:
“The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn. That’s the pinnacle of my life. We’ve had 69 years together — still together. So that’s the best thing that happened to me.” — Jimmy told C-SPAN in 2015