(NEXSTAR) — Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has died, just two days after entering hospice care. She was 96.
Carter passed away Sunday afternoon at her Plains, Georgia, home, The Carter Center said in a statement.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said in a 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.”
Here is a look at the former first lady’s life in photos.
Unlike many previous first ladies, Rosalynn sat in on Cabinet meetings, spoke out on controversial issues and represented her husband on foreign trips. Aides to President Carter sometimes referred to her — privately — as “co-president.”
Fiercely loyal and compassionate as well as politically astute, Rosalynn Carter prided herself on being an activist first lady, and no one doubted her behind-the-scenes influence. When her role in a highly publicized Cabinet shakeup became known, she was forced to declare publicly, “I am not running the government.”
Both Carters said in their later years that Rosalynn had always been the more political of the two. After Jimmy Carter’s landslide defeat in 1980, it was she, not the former president, who contemplated an implausible comeback, and years later she confessed to missing their life in Washington.
Jimmy Carter trusted her so much that in 1977, only months into his term, he sent her on a mission to Latin America to tell dictators he meant what he said about denying military aid and other support to violators of human rights.
She also had strong feelings about the style of the Carter White House. The Carters did not serve hard liquor at public functions, though Rosalynn did permit U.S. wine. There were fewer evenings of ballroom dancing and more square dancing and picnics.
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains on Aug. 18, 1927, the eldest of four children. Her father died when she was young, so she took on much of the responsibility of caring for her siblings when her mother went to work part time.
She also contributed to the family income by working after school in a beauty parlor. “We were very poor and worked hard,” she once said, but she kept up her studies, graduating from high school as class valedictorian.
She soon fell in love with the brother of one of her best friends. Jimmy and Rosalynn had known each other all their lives — it was Jimmy’s mother, nurse Lillian Carter, who delivered baby Rosalynn — but he left for the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, when she was still in high school.
After a blind date, Jimmy told his mother: “That’s the girl I want to marry.” They wed in 1946, shortly after his graduation from Annapolis and Rosalynn’s graduation from Georgia Southwestern College.
Their sons were born where Jimmy Carter was stationed: John William (Jack) in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1947; James Earl III (Chip) in Honolulu in 1950; and Donnel Jeffery (Jeff) in New London, Connecticut, in 1952. Amy was born in Plains in 1967. By then, Carter was a state senator.
Navy life had provided Rosalynn her first chance to see the world. When Carter’s father, James Earl Sr., died in 1953, Jimmy Carter decided, without consulting his wife, to move the family back to Plains, where he took over the family farm. She joined him there in the day-to-day operations, keeping the books and weighing fertilizer trucks.
“We developed a partnership when we were working in the farm supply business,” Rosalynn Carter recalled with pride in a 2021 interview with The Associated Press. “I knew more on paper about the business than he did. He would take my advice about things.”
At the height of the Carters’ political power, Lillian Carter said of her daughter-in-law: “She can do anything in the world with Jimmy, and she’s the only one. He listens to her.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.