Jimmy Carter, Biden and Clintons pay tribute at Rosalynn Carter memorial

A tribute service for Rosalynn Carter took place on Tuesday, as politicians and public figures gathered to celebrate the former first lady’s life following her death last Sunday.

Former president Jimmy Carter, 99, attended the tribute for his late wife of 77 years, traveling from his hospice care at home to the Glenn Memorial church in Atlanta. His attendance marks a rare public appearance for the former president, who has been in home hospice care for 10 months.

Related: Rosalynn Carter: a life in pictures

A funeral motorcade left for Glenn Memorial around noon, with the tribute beginning shortly after 1.30pm ET and ending after 3pm.

Military guards transported Rosalynn’s casket from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, where the former first lady was in repose, to make the trip to Glenn Memorial church.

Tributes to Rosalynn were delivered by the journalist Judy Woodruff, longtime aide and friend Kathryn Cade and Rosalynn’s children and grandchildren.

Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump arrive at the tribute.
Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump arrive at the tribute. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Jason, Rosalynn’s grandson, spoke about his grandmother’s commitment to advocating for better mental health care.

“Her advocacy for mental health was a 50-year climb that is as remarkable as any other and has been mentioned already,” Jason said during the tribute, adding that Rosalynn “decided in 1970 to tackle the anxious and stigma associated with mental illness”.

“That effort changed lives and it saved lives, including in my own family,” Jason added, referring to Rosalynn’s advocacy.

Rosalynn’s children, Amy and James, also spoke at the tribute. James, who goes by “Chip”, called Rosalynn the glue that held the Carter family together through turbulent times.

Chip added that his mother was influential in him into rehab treatment for a substance use disorder.

“She saved my life,” Chip said at the tribute.

James ‘Chip’ Carter kisses the head of his father, Jimmy Carter, at the service.
James ‘Chip’ Carter kisses the head of his father, Jimmy Carter, at the service. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Amy spoke about the enduring relationship between Jimmy and Rosalynn, sharing a love letter he had written to Rosalynn while he was serving in the navy.

“My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I had been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are,”he wrote in the letter, recited by Amy.

“Their partnership and love story was a defining feature of her life. Because he is unable to speak to you today, I’m going to share some of his words about loving and missing,” Amy said.

Rosalynn’s other grandchildren and great-grandchildren read selections of the Bible during the tribute.

Every living former first lady attended Tuesday’s invitation-only service. Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris and the second gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, also attended, but did not give remarks.

Other guests included the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, the Atlanta mayor, Andre Dickens, and other Georgia politicians.

Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George W Bush were invited to Tuesday’s tribute, the Associated Press reported, but did not attend.

Public tributes for Rosalynn began on Monday, as her family planned three memorials to honor the former first lady.

Hundreds of supporters paid their respects on Monday at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum .

Besides Tuesday’s tribute, there will be a funeral on Wednesday for family and invited friends in Plains, Georgia, where the Carters lived.

Guests hold programs during the tribute service in Atlanta.
Guests hold programs during the tribute service in Atlanta. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

The former first lady died last week at 96 at her Georgia home. She was diagnosed with dementia in May and died shortly after entering hospice care alongside her husband.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Jimmy Carter said in a statement released last week by the Carter Center. “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.”

Rosalynn is widely regarded for her commitment to public service and her work as an advocate for mental health.

During her tenure as first lady, Rosalynn addressed the World Health Organization, arguing that mental health was a component of physical health and that health, more broadly, was a human right.

Rosalynn and her husband also supported several humanitarian causes, including Habitat for Humanity.