Tributes from former and current political leaders started pouring in on Sunday afternoon as news spread that former first lady Rosalynn Carter had died at age 96.
The wife of former president Jimmy Carter passed away at the couple’s longtime home in Plains, Georgia, surrounded by family, the Carter Center announced.
Rosalynn Carter had been by her husband’s side for more than 75 years and was his closest advisor.
“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.”
She served as first lady from 1977 to 1981, remaining an advocate for health care, mental health and the importance of familial caregivers long after leaving the White House.
The Bidens released a joint statement on Sunday, saying, “Rosalynn did so much to address many of society’s greatest needs” — this included mental health and caregiving, and women’s rights.
Boston University professor and presidential historian Thomas Whalen called Rosalynn Carter a true partner in power, saying she redefined what it meant to be a first lady in the modern presidency. He also says she was the first first lady in modern times to have an office and staff in the White House, setting up in the East Wing.
“She was always in Jimmy Carter’s ears in terms of providing him what she thought was necessary advice needed to carry out the policies of his administration,” he said. “They were always looking to help others. It was a life of service, a life of principle and purpose, and looking back at it from the vantage point of the 21st century, it seems like somehow we’ve lost that.”
Rosalynn Carter’s tireless humanitarian work was universally praised on Sunday, as politicians across New England, from Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey to Maine Sen. Susan Collins, mourned her death.
“Rosalynn Carter lived a life of service. With a sharp mind, an open heart, and a strong will, she worked in true partnership with her husband to make our country and our world a better place,” Healey wrote on social media. “Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “First Lady Rosalynn Carter made the world a better place.”
“From supporting human rights to housing the poor, to advancing mental health and caregiving, she was a force for good,” Warren wrote. “My heart goes out to the Carter family.”
Sen. Ed Markey called it a heartbreaking loss, writing on social media, “A champion of mental health and human dignity—Rosalynn’s legacy lives on in her work to support caregivers and build a better, kinder world.”
Sen. Susan Collins said Rosalynn Carter leaves an extraordinary legacy.
“Her work to improve the treatment of mental illness helped so many Americans get the care they needed,” she wrote. “Hers was a life well-lived.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said she was saddened to learn of Rosalynn Carter’s death, calling her a tireless champion for women’s rights and mental health.
“Her advocacy moved our nation forward,” Shaheen said. “I send my love and condolences to the entire Carter family during this difficult time.”
Here’s more reaction from New England politicians:
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