Former president Jimmy Carter arrived at his late wife Rosalynn’s memorial in wheelchair and underneath a blanket bearing her face in a heartbreaking goodbye to his wife of 77 years.
The 99-year-old looked out at the guests and took his place on the front row alongside all the living first ladies – Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Jill Biden – and President Joe Biden and Bill Clinton.
It was his first public appearance in almost a year. The former president did not speak during the service.
The Carters’ son James gave the eulogy for his mother, saying: ‘My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thick and thins of our families politics.’
Former President Jimmy Carter has a blanket with his wife Rosalynn’s picture on it
Jimmy Carter in the front row of his wife’s memorial service – from left are Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Jill Biden and Joe Biden
James ‘Chip’ Carter kisses the head of his father, former US President Jimmy Carter, during a tribute service for Rosalynn Carter
Melania Trump arrives for the funeral service
Melania Trump and her fellow former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton
Amy Carter with her father Jimmy Carter
James told stories of his family’s adventures in politics and the good humor his mother displayed during the tough times.
He credited his mother for getting him into rehab for his drug and alcohol addiction.
‘She saved my life,’ he said.
And he concluded with: ‘My mother, Rosalynn Carter was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. And pretty to look at to.’
Amy Carter choked back tears as she talked about her parents’ love story and told the crowd her piece was ‘hard to read without crying so be patient.’
‘My mom spent most of her life in love my dad,’ she noted. ‘There their partnership and love story was a defining feature of her life. Because he isn’t able to speak to you today. I’m going to share some of his words about loving and missing.’
She then read from a letter Jimmy Carter wrote Rossalyn 75 years ago 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 tried to convince myself I 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. Goodbye darling. Until tomorrow Jimmy.’
Jimmy Carter at Rossalyn’s memorial service
Ahead of Carter’s arrival at the service, Melania Trump and Michelle Obama walked into together to take their front row seats at Rosalynn Carter’s funeral.
The two former first ladies led the procession of VIPs into the memorial service, followed by Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, first lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden.
Jimmy Carter sat in the first row with his sons, John William ‘Jack’ Carter, James Earl ‘Chip’ Carter III and Donnel Jeffrey ‘Jeff’ Carter and his daughter, Amy Lynn Carter, during the service.
Amy was seen holding her father’s hand during a performance of ‘Morning Has Broken’ by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus.
Next to the family in the front row were the president, first lady, Bill Clinton and the former first ladies.
During her eulogy, journalist Judy Woodruff greeted the front row by name and said: ‘Rosalynn Carter would be so pleased to see she brought all of you together on this day.’
Her comment was met with laughter and applause.
Jason Carter, the Carters’ grandson, also paid tribute to the leaders in attendance, saying ‘Secretary Clinton and Dr. Biden – we also welcome your lovely husbands.’
The crowd roared with laughter and applause.
He talked about how Rosalynn was like all other grandmothers, giving her grandkids a $20 on their birthday and ‘Almost all of her recipes call for mayonnaise.’
‘She was born just a few years after women got the right to vote in this small town in the south where people were still plowing their fields behind mules,’ he said.
‘She shaped our national policy she faced down dictators herself on issues of human rights. She built the Carter Center from an idea into a powerhouse human rights.’
He praised her global humantarian missions, such as her work to eradicate guinea worm, pointing out the world has gone from 3.5 million cases a year to less than a dozen.
‘We’re in the last mile because she could see far and she kept going. She was not afraid of these long journeys,’ he said.
Also during the service, country music legendary couple Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood performed John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’ The couple became close to the Carters through their work with Habitat for Hummanity.
Amy Carter choked back tears as she read a letter her father wrote to her mother while he was in the Navy 75 years ago
Former President Jimmy Carter arrives for his late wife’s service
‘My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thick and thins,’ James ‘Chip’ Carter said in his eulogy of Rosalynn
Carter family members walk as the casket of former first lady Rosalynn Carter arrives at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University
The casket of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is carried into the Glenn Memorial Church
The casket of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, arrives inside Glenn Memorial Church
Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama arrive in Georgia
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive in Georgia
Amy Lynn Carter (R) and her husband John Joseph ‘Jay’ Kelly (L) follow a military honor guard carrying the casket of Rosalynn Carter
A military honor guard carries the casket of late First Lady Rosalynn Carter from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum on the way to an afternoon memorial service
Michelle Obama, the Clintons and the Bidens traveled together from Washington DC on Air Force One.
Carter, who has been in ill health for the past year and has spent the past 10 months in hospice care, was determined to make the ceremony at Glenn Memorial Church.
It is his first public appearance since September, when he and Rosalynn Carter rode together in the Plains Peanut Festival parade and were seen through the windows of their car.
He is ‘very physically diminished’ and plans to stay throughout but won’t deliver any remarks, his grandson Jason Carter said ahead the service.
‘But we all know that he wouldn’t miss it for the world,’ he added.
Before the service began, the Bidens held a private meeting with members of the Carter Family at Glenn School for Young Children.
Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff sat in the second row behind Melania Trump at the service.
Georgia’s Senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, were also in attendance as was Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Carter was with his wife of 77 years when she died. They are the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history.
Rosalynn Carter’s service will feature classical music and beloved hymns, some of her favorite Biblical passages, and a rare gathering of all living U.S. first ladies and multiple presidents.
It’s a rare public appearance from Melania Trump, whose husband Donald Trump had been highly critical of Jimmy Carter’s time in office. The Trumps paid tribute to Rosalynn Carter’s work on humantarian and mental health issues when she died earlier this month.
Donald Trump was invited to the service but will not attend. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also were invited but will not attend. Trump’s absence will ensure no awkward encounters with the Carter family or with Biden as the two men appear to be on course for a rematch.
Pro-Gaza protesters were seen outside the Glenn Memorial Church.
Rosalynn Carter’s funeral will take place Wednesday in Plains, Georgia, with an invitation-only service at Maranatha Baptist Church, where the Carters have been members since returning to Georgia after his presidency.
She will be buried after a private graveside service on a plot the couple will share.
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US President Bill Clinton, and former US First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted upon arrival at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta
Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama step off of Air Force One
Mourners with funeral programs at Rossalynn Carter’s service
Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock (center) arrive for Carter’s service
FILE – Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife former first lady Rosalynn Carter sit together during a reception to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on July 10, 2021
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden leave the White House for the trip to Georgia
A Georgia State Patrol honor guard stands at the casket of former first lady Rosalynn Carter at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta
Meanwhile, Melania Trump has been seen in social media posts from the Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago Club but she has not been in the public eye in nearly a year. She was seen in New York over the summer running errands but her last public appearance was November 15, 2022, when Donald Trump announced he was making another bid for the White House.
And, notably, Melania Trump hasn’t been by Donald Trump’s side as he fights his many legal battles in New York, Georgia, and federal courts.
Her husband mocked Jimmy Carter’s presidency shortly after Rosalynn entered hospice services.
At a political rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Trump in his criticism of Biden, told a crowd of supporters that ‘the happiest person anywhere in this country right now is Jimmy Carter because his administration looked brilliant compared to these clowns.’
‘Compared to Biden, Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, brilliant president,’ Trump said.
Both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter had attended Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017.
But they were closest to the Bidens. President Biden already said he would give the eulogy at Jimmy Carter’s state funeral. The Carters had cooler relationships with President Clinton, Obama and Bush. Carter was critical of George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
But it’s traditional for all living first ladies to attend the memorial service for a predecessor. Melania Trump attended Barbara Bush’s funeral service in April 2018 along with her predecessors in the White House.
Rosalynn Carter died on November 19 at the age of 96 at her home in Plains, Georgia alongside her husband of 77 years, President Jimmy Carter, 99.
They met when Jimmy was just three years old and Rosalynn was a newborn, and celebrated their 77nd wedding anniversary on July 7, 2023.
Jimmy and Rosalynn shared a lifetime together and their romance stood the test of time, as well as the challenges of Navy deployments, a presidential campaign and his subsequent time in office.
Post-presidency, Jimmy was utterly devoted to his wife.
They pursued humanitarian projects together, helping construct or renovate more than 4,300 affordable homes across the world – one of the greatest charitable achievements of any past president.
The couple first dated in 1945. The 20-year-old Jimmy was attending the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and stole a kiss from Rosalynn on their first date. He later told his mother he wanted to marry her.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017
A decades-long love story has come to an end after the wife of former U.S. president James ‘Jimmy’ Earl Carter Jr has died at the age of 96
The Carters’ romance stood the test of time for 77 years. He’s seen here with Rosalynn during the Plains Peanut Festival September 2022
Rosalynn Carter is survived by her husband of 77 years, their four children, and 21 grandchildren and great-grandchildren
The pair were married just one year later, when Rosalynn was 18, and the late Jimmy told People in 2015 that marrying her was the ‘best thing I ever did,’ describing their partnership as the ‘pinnacle’ of his life.
Growing up in Plains, Georgia, Jimmy met Rosalynn when she was just one day old, and she became friends with his sister Ruth while growing up.
Their parents were neighbors, and Jimmy’s mother, Bessie Lillian Carter, helped deliver Rosalynn.
While Jimmy was home for the summer before starting his final year of college, plans with another girl had fallen through when he met 17-year-old Rosalynn and invited her to the movies.
‘I just felt compatible with her, she was beautiful and innocent, and there was a resonance,’ Jimmy told writers Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas for their book ‘What Makes A Marriage Last.’
‘We rode in the rumble seat of a Ford pickup — Ruth [Jimmy’s sister] and her boyfriend in the front — and I kissed her on that first date. I remember that vividly.’
In a poem from his 1995 book ‘Always a Reckoning,’ Jimmy recalled that first date at the movies, writing: ‘I’d pay to sit behind her, blind to what was on the screen, and watch the image flicker on her hair.’
It didn’t take long for the love-struck 20-year-old to determine that Rosalynn was a keeper and he proposed. She rejected him the first time, but he won her heart the following February.
The longest married couple in U.S. presidential history, who met when Jimmy was just three years old and Rosalynn was a newborn (pictured right), celebrated their 77nd wedding anniversary July 7, 2023
Rosalynn rejected his first proposal, telling Carter she’d promised her father she would finish college before marriage. They continued to write each other, however, when he went back to Annapolis, and by the next February, she accepted his proposal
The couple with their three sons, John William Carter, known as Jack, James Earl Carter III, known as Chip, and Donnel Jeffrey, known as Jeff, in the 1950s. Their daughter, Amy Lynn, was born in October 1967
A peanut-shaped float at the inauguration of Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C., a nod to his background as a peanut farmer
Jimmy Carter is seen with his family in a portrait from 1976
Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter embraces his wife Rosalynn after receiving the final news of his victory in the national general election, November 2, 1976
Rosalynn, Amy and Jimmy Carter during one of his inaugural parties in 1977. Amy, the couple’s youngest child, was nine years old when her father became president
Presenting her with a compact engraved with ‘ILYTG’ an acronym for the Carter family’s motto, ‘I love you the goodest’ the pairing was to last for more than 70 years.
‘Now all our children do the same thing: ILYTG on the phone or in emails,’ Jimmy told People.
‘They generally just put the initials. And sometimes they change the initials and make you guess what they’re talking about.’
Just weeks before Jimmy graduated from the Naval academy, Jimmy and Rosalynn tied the knot on July 7, 1946, at Plains Methodist Church in their hometown.
The newlyweds moved to Norfolk, Virginia, shortly after their nuptials for the first of many Naval assignments that saw the Carters posted in California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
Jimmy and Rosalynn had four children, and 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2018, their grandson Jeremy died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 28.
They welcomed their first child John ‘Jack’ William Carter on July 3, 1947, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Jack later served in the Vietnam War and ran for Senate in 2006.
Their second son, James ‘Chip’ Earl Carter, was born April 12, 1950, in Honolulu and their third son Donnel ‘Jeff’ Jeffrey Carter was born in New London, Connecticut, in August two years later.
Their fourth child and only daughter, Amy Lynn, was born October 1967 in the couple’s hometown Plains, Georgia, as he ventured into politics.
After the death of Jimmy’s father James Earl Carter Sr at the age of 58, from pancreatic cancer in 1953, the 33-year-old left the Navy and took on the family’s peanut farm.
Jimmy and Rosalynn hit their first roadblock following the decision to ‘uproot’ the family, and the former president said his wife didn’t speak to him for the entire drive from Schenectady, New York, to Plains – Rosalynn confessing to the New Yorker that she felt ‘resentful’ of the decision.
But, in hindsight, the move solidified the couple, and the eventual political career that followed.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walk from the Capitol to the White House during his inauguration parade in 1977
Carter and his VP Walter Mondale accept the Democratic nomination for president at the party’s convention in New York City in 1976 with their wives, Rosalynn, left, and Joan, right
Rosalynn was devastated when Jimmy lost his re-election campaign to Ronald Reagan in 1980, with Jimmy recalling that she actually took the defeat harder than he did. The pair are seen with their daughter Amy in the Blue Room of the White House in 1977
Jimmy Carter holding his granddaughter Sarah, flanked by his wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy, at the Democratic National Convention
Carter returned to Plains, Georgia, after his term as president ended. He’s pictured with Amy and Rosalynn upon the family’s return in 1981
‘We developed a partnership when we were working in the farm supply business, and it continued when Jimmy got involved in politics,’ Rosalynn told the Associated Press.
‘I knew more on paper about the business than he did. He would take my advice about things.’
Jimmy was elected to the Georgia State Senate on November 5, 1962, following an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate.
He credited Rosalynn, who campaigned tirelessly for him, for the political successes and told Associated Press: ‘My wife is much more political.’
He won the Georgia state governor election on November 3, 1970, and upon his inauguration, Rosalynn began her work on destigmatizing mental illness as the state’s first lady.
‘Jimmy gave me the confidence to do things I was afraid of,’ Rosalynn said of her time as Georgia’s first lady to People.
‘I remember when we were in the Georgia governor’s mansion, I used to greet tourists and talk to everybody who came through.
‘One day, Jimmy told me I was going to have to make a speech. I was so nervous, and he said, ‘Why don’t you just do what you do at the governor’s mansion when you’re talking to the tourists?’ So I made the speech with no problem, ran to the telephone and called Jimmy to say, ‘I did it!’ I did it because I had to do it.’
Jimmy won the U.S. presidential election on November 2, 1976, thanks in part to Rosalynn’s determined campaign strategy, visiting 40 states and earning her the title of Jimmy’s ‘secret weapon.’
In 1976, she told People that she preferred campaigning solo for Jimmy.
‘We can reach twice as many people this way,’ she said.
‘I’ve made as many as 12 speeches a day in one community. I enjoy it. But sometimes I want to stop and wash my hair.’
Rosalynn was devastated when Jimmy lost his re-election campaign to Ronald Reagan on November 4, 1980, with Jimmy recalling that she actually took the defeat harder than he did.
‘I searched for good things about not being re-elected, to ease her pain,’ he said.
‘I was just 56 years old, I told her, and she was just 53, so we had at least 25 years of life ahead of us. That’s when The Carter Center was born. It has been a wonderful challenge.’
In 1984, Jimmy and Rosalynn, who’d previously worked with Habitat for Humanity in Georgia, rounded up volunteers for the New York chapter of the organization and went on to build houses all around the U.S.
It was their different passions, Rosalynn told People, that ensured their love lasted decades.
‘I’d say space [is the secret to a lasting marriage]. One of the hardest times was when we came home from the White House,’ she said.
‘It was the first time we’d been together in the house all day every day. So, I got my office in what was a bedroom, and his is in what was the garage.’
The couple also withstood several health scares, not least when they announced that Jimmy had liver cancer in August 12, 2015.
He underwent surgery to remove a small mass in his liver, surviving the ordeal, with family and friends saying they had no doubt that the couple can ‘get through this.’
In his book, ‘A Full Life,’ Carter noted that it took him running for office in 1962 for some of the dynamics in his marriage to Rosalynn to change, and Rosalynn became his ‘political partner’
After his presidency, the Carters started working with Habitat for Humanity, a Christian nonprofit that builds affordable houses for those in need
The Carters’ decades-long focus on humanitarian and diplomatic efforts earned Jimmy a Nobel Peace Prize. The pair are seen in Detroit in 2005 as they attended a Habitat for Humanity event
The former president and his wife said their long love was a product of time spent pursuing their own interests – but they would often spend time together, as seen here at the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals game in 2018
Carter wrote Rosalynn a poem which was posted to Facebook last year, speaking of how ‘she’d smile, and birds would feel that they no longer had to sing.’ He said that marrying Rosalynn was the ‘pinnacle of his life’
On December 6 that same year, Carter announced that his liver cancer was gone.
‘My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones,’ he said in a statement.
‘I will continue to receive regular 3-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab.’
In 2018, Jimmy and Rosalynn revealed what a day in the life was like for the pair.
The couple, who lived in the same two-bedroom home in Georgia that they’d occupied before he was elected president, would engage in separate activities in the morning but spend their evenings together.
‘He and Mrs Carter take walks, and they have followed a healthy diet for a lifetime,’ a Carter Center spokesperson said.
‘Both President and Mrs Carter are determined to use their influence for as long as they can to make the world a better place, and millions of the world’s poorest people are grateful for their resolve and heart.’
After surviving cancer and several other health setbacks, including a fall that required stitches, and a broken hip during a turkey hunt, Jimmy said that his marriage was part of why he had otherwise been in great health.
‘It’s hard to live until you’re 95 years old,’ he told People.
‘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.’
He added: ‘I think both mine and Rosa’s minds are almost as good as they used to be, we just have limited capability on stamina and strength. But we still try to stay busy and do a good job at what we do.’
‘Jimmy has always thought I could do anything,’ Rosalynn said in the book ‘What Makes a Marriage Last.’
‘Always – and so I’ve done everything. I campaigned all over the country. I’ve done things I never dreamed I could do.’