Advertisement

Former US president Jimmy Carter leaves hospice to pay respects to late wife

Jimmy Carter at his wife, Rosalynn's memorial service on Tuesday
Jimmy Carter is the longest is the oldest living American ex-president in US history - EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS

An ailing Jimmy Carter left hospice care to attend the memorial service for his wife of 77 years, Rosalynn who died on Nov 19 aged 96.

The 99-year-old former president arrived at the ceremony in a wheelchair, having made a two-hour journey to the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta.

Covered with a blanket decorated with Mrs Carter’s picture, he took his place in the front row, having been wheeled into the church by aides.

Melania Trump made a rare public appearance as she joined all the other surviving first ladies in paying tribute to Mrs Carter.

Mrs Trump walked into the church alongside Michelle Obama. They were followed by Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

A tearful Bill Clinton and Joe Biden also attended the service along with Georgia’s two Democratic senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

Former US President Jimmy Carter arrives at a tribute service for his wife Rosalynn Carter
Jimmy Carter arrives at the service - Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US First Lady Laura Bush, former US First Lady Michelle Obama, and former US First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a tribute service for former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta, Georgia
From top, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US First Lady Laura Bush, former US First Lady Michelle Obama and former US First Lady Melania Trump - Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Presidential funeral services typically are attended by all living presidents - Mr Carter attended the Washington memorial for George W. Bush Senior in 2018 - providing a moment for unity across parties and generations.

Donald Trump, George W Bush and Barack Obama were invited to the service but did not attend.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia, U.S.
Former US President Bill Clinton and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base en route to the service - Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The choir sang America The Beautiful as Mrs Carter’s coffin was brought in and placed at the front of the 93-year-old church.

The Carters’ 73-year-old son Chip paid tribute to his mother. He said she was the glue which held the family together “through the ups and downs and thicks and thins” of politics and family life.

Jason Carter, himself a former state senator and one-time Democratic nominee for governor, called his grandmother “the best politician in the family”, a distinction Jimmy Carter never disputed.

When she died, Mr Carter said in a statement that she’d been “my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished”.

A woman holds a photo of former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter as her body lays in repose at the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov 27, 2023
Rosalynn Carter had been a strong advocate for mental health - CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA/AFP
The casket of former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter is carried in for a tribute service, at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta, Georgia
The casket of former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter is carried in for a tribute service, at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Celebrated as an active first lady who championed then little-discussed issues of mental health, Mrs 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, Mr 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.

The Carters married in 1946 and held the record of longest-wed presidential couple.

Throughout Mr Carter’s long political career, his wife was at the heart of his campaigns. During the 1977 to 1981 White House term, Mrs Carter worked to raise the status of the first lady’s office.

James "Chip" Carter kisses his father, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as they attend a tribute service former first lady Rosalynn Carter
James "Chip" Carter kisses his father, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter - Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

“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 Aug 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 Mr Carter in 1945 while she was in college and he was on leave from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Mrs Carter’s farewell 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 their last respects.

Her funeral will take place on Wednesday at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia where the couple worshipped after they left the White House.