By John Falchetto
Atlanta, United States — Jimmy Carter, the 99-year-old former president whose lifelong love for his wife Rosalynn became a near legend in US politics, will bid farewell to her Tuesday in a ceremony also attended by President Joe Biden.
Jimmy Carter, himself in hospice care through most of this year, will make the journey from the modest home in Plains, Georgia, that he shared with Rosalynn much of their lives to the city of Atlanta.
“The current plan is for President Carter to attend the national tribute service for Mrs Carter at Glenn Memorial Church,” the former first couple’s charity organization, The Carter Center, said.
Rosalynn Carter died Nov 19, aged 96, just two days after joining her husband in hospice care at the house in Plains.
Celebrated as a highly active first lady who championed then little-discussed issues of mental health, Rosalynn Carter’s reputation only grew, along with her husband’s, once they left the White House.
Losing his 1980 reelection bid to Republican Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter was widely dismissed as a failure. However, the couple went on to build a global network of charity activities and earned plaudits for their humble lifestyle.
Rosalynn Carter’s memorial began Monday when past and present agents from the US Secret Service, which guards presidential families, escorted her coffin to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta. The public was invited to pay last respects.
On Tuesday, ceremonies will take place at Glenn Memorial Church, with grandchildren carrying the coffin and Biden, along with all living first ladies, in attendance.
According to the Carter Center, guests will include First Lady Jill Biden, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. Vice President Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff and former president Bill Clinton will also be there, according to the published list.
The more private funeral on Wednesday in Plains will inevitably shift attention to Jimmy Carter, who is the oldest living US ex-president in history.
Presidential funeral services typically are attended by all living presidents — Carter attended the Washington memorial for George W. Bush in 2018 — providing a rare moment for unity across parties and generations.
With Biden and Trump increasingly likely to face each other in a 2024 rematch of their bitter 2020 election battle, however, even the solemn occasion of a Carter funeral would be scrutinized for signs of tension.
The Carters married in 1946 and held the record of longest-wed presidential couple.
When she died, after suffering dementia, Jimmy Carter said in a statement that she’d been “my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished.”
Throughout Jimmy Carter’s long political career, his wife was at the heart of his campaigns. And during the 1977 to 1981 White House term, Rosalynn Carter worked to raise the status of the first lady’s office.
“She attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, frequently represented the Chief Executive at ceremonial occasions and served as the president’s personal emissary to Latin American countries,” according to the White House website.
She was born in Plains on August 18, 1927, as the first of four children. At 13 her father died and she worked alongside her mother, who became a dressmaker to make ends meet.
She met Jimmy Carter in 1945 while she was in college and he was on leave from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.