From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter (born
August 18, 1927), commonly known as Rosalynn
Carter, is the wife of the former President
of the United States Jimmy
Carter, and in that capacity served as the First
Lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
As First Lady and after, she was a leading advocate for numerous causes,
perhaps most prominently for mental
health research. She was
politically active in her White
House years as her husband's
closest adviser as well, and sat in on Cabinet and policy meetings. She also
served as an envoy abroad, most prominently to Latin
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains,
Georgia, the eldest of the four children of Frances Allethea Murray
(1905–1997), a dressmaker,
and Wilburn Edgar Smith (1896–1940), an automobile
mechanic and farmer.
Her brothers were William Jerrold "Jerry" Smith (engineer, 1929–2003) and
Murray Lee Smith (teacher and minister, 1932–2003) and her sister is Lillian
Allethea Smith Wall (born 1936).
Her father died of leukemia when
she was 13, and she helped her mother raise her younger siblings as well as
assist her dressmaking in order to meet the family's financial needs. She
graduated as valedictorian of
Plains High School and then attended Georgia
Southwestern College, but later dropped out.
Although their families were acquainted, Rosalynn
Smith first dated Jimmy
Carter in 1945 while he was at
States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
On July 7, 1946, they married in Plains.
The couple have four children: John
William "Jack" (born 1947),
James Earl "Chip" III (born 1950), Donnel Jeffrey "Jeff" (born 1952), and Amy
Lynn (born 1967). The first
three were born in different parts of the country and away from Georgia, due
to her husband's military duties.
In 1953, after her husband left the Navy, she helped him run the family peanut farming
and warehousing business, handling the accounting responsibilities.
Since 1962, the year Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia
State Senate, she has been active in the political arena.
Lady of Georgia
After helping her husband win the governorship of Georgia in
1970, Mrs. Carter decided to focus her attention as First Lady of Georgia on
the field of mental
health. Her husband appointed her to the Governor's Commission to Improve
Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. Many of the
Commission's recommendations were approved and became law. She also served as
a volunteer at the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta,
Georgia and for four years was
honorary chairperson for the Georgia Special
In January 1975, when her husband's gubernatorial term was over, Governor
Carter, along with his wife and daughter, went back to Plains. He had already
announced his plans to run for President of the United States. Rosalynn
returned to the campaign trail, this time in a national quest for support for
her husband. She campaigned alone on his behalf in 41 states.
During the months she was campaigning across the country, Rosalynn was elected
to the board of directors of the National
Association of Mental Health, she was honored by the National
Organization for Women with an
Award of Merit for her vigorous support for the Equal
Rights Amendment, and she received the Volunteer of the Year Award from
the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Services.
Lady of the United States
In January 1977, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter walked hand-in-hand down Pennsylvania
Avenue during his presidential
inauguration parade. For the inaugural balls, she wore the same gown she had
worn six years earlier at the balls in Atlanta when
her husband became governor.
During the Carter Administration, she supported her husband's public policies
as well as his social and personal life. To be fully informed, she would sit
in on Cabinet meetings, at the invitation of President Carter. She represented
him in meetings with domestic and foreign leaders, most notably as an envoy to Latin
America in 1977. She also led a delegation to Thailand in
1979 to address the problems of Cambodian and Laotian refugees.
Helping the refugees, particularly the children, became a special cause for
her. When the cultural exchange program Friendship
Force International was
launched at the White House on March 1, 1977, she became honorary chairperson,
a title she held until 2002.
She served as an active honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental
Health. On behalf of the Mental Health System Bill, enacted in 1980, she
testified before a Senate committee. The only First
Lady who had previously
appeared before Congress was Mrs.
Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Carter also was a strong proponent of the Equal
She oversaw her family at the White
House. Her daughter, Amy,
who was nine years old, attracted much public attention. The two youngest
sons, Chip and Jeff, and their families, also lived in the White
House. Other members of the family, including son Jack and his wife and
children, were frequent visitors.
Rosalynn Carter's Secret Service codename is "Dancer".
After leaving the White
House in 1981, Rosalynn Carter,
like her husband, has continued a very active life. In 1982, she co-founded The
Carter Center, a private, not-for-profit institution
based in Atlanta,
Georgia. She is a member of the Center's Board of Trustees and
participates in many of the Center's programs. but gives special attention to
the Mental Health Program.