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Jimmy Carter says the secret to a long life is to 'marry the best spouse.' Here's a timeline of his 76-year relationship with wife Rosalynn.

President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter dancing.
US President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter dance at a White House Congressional Ball in 1978.
  • Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter are the longest-married presidential couple in US history.
  • They are both from Plains, Georgia, and have known each other since Rosalynn was a newborn.
  • Here's a look inside their relationship, from their early life in Plains to Carter's post-presidency.
Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, have been married for over 76 years.
Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter.
Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter.

"The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn," the former president said in a 2015 interview at his nonprofit, The Carter Center, shared by C-SPAN. "That's the pinnacle of my life."

"Though we faced extraordinary responsibilities and lived a life we could have never, ever dreamed of, we are first and always Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter from Plains, Georgia," Rosalynn wrote in her 1984 autobiography, "First Lady From Plains."

Their relationship is the longest presidential marriage in US history.

August 1927: Jimmy Carter was just 3 years old when he met his future wife.
Jimmy Carter in 1928.
Jimmy Carter in 1928.

Three-year-old Jimmy met Rosalynn Smith when she was just a newborn. Lillian Carter, Jimmy's mother, worked as a nurse and helped deliver Rosalynn.

Jimmy's younger sister, Ruth, became best friends with Rosalynn. In the 2020 book "What Makes a Marriage Last" by Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, Rosalynn shared that Jimmy's sister is in part responsible for their relationship.

"I always said I fell in love with a photograph of him on her [Ruth's] bedroom wall," Rosalynn said.

"Ruth and I plotted to get me together with [Jimmy]. She'd call and say 'Come over! He's here!' and I'd go flying over to her house, but he'd be gone again," she told the authors.


1945: It wasn't until he was attending the US Naval Academy that Jimmy finally asked Rosalynn out on a date.
Jimmy Carter gets his bars pinned on by his wife Rosalynn, left and his mother, Mrs. Lillian Carter at the U.S. Naval Academy in this undated photo.
Jimmy Carter gets his bars pinned on by his wife, Rosalynn, left, and his mother, Lillian Carter, at the US Naval Academy in an undated photo.

Before his final year at the Naval Academy, and before Rosalynn's second year of college, the future couple went on their first date.

"I was cruising around with my sister Ruth and her boyfriend, just looking for a date, and I picked up Rosalynn in front of the Methodist church," he told the authors for "What Makes a Marriage Last."

The two then went out to the movies. "I kissed her on that first date. I remember that vividly," he said in the book.

He also recalled telling his mother the next morning that Rosalynn would be his wife one day.

"Rosalynn was the one I wanted to marry," he said.

1946: Jimmy proposed to Rosalynn — twice.
In a photograph from September 1966, then Georgia State Sen. Jimmy Carter hugs his wife, Rosalynn, at his Atlanta campaign headquarters.
The couple in September 1966.

Less than a year after their first date, Jimmy asked Rosalynn to marry him. She initially rejected his proposal, because she wanted to prioritize completing her education. 

Later that year, in May 1946, he proposed to her again. This time, she said yes.

July 7, 1946: The Carters married in their hometown.
Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn, give members of the press a tour at a special preview of the new Carter Presidential Center in 1986
Pictured in 1986, Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn, stand in front of a photograph taken on their wedding day in 1946.

The couple tied the knot when Jimmy was 21 and Rosalynn was just 19. They got married in Plains, Georgia, at a Methodist church.

July 3, 1947: Jimmy and Rosalynn welcomed the first of their four children, John William Carter, known as Jack.
The Carter family in the 1950s.
Jack Carter, left, with his parents in the 1950s.

Rosalynn gave birth to their first child, Jack, in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1947 while Jimmy was still serving in the US Navy. 

Jack went to law school at the University of Georgia, and he later ran for senate in Nevada in 2006. Although he succeeded in becoming the Democratic nominee, he lost against the Republican incumbent.

April 12, 1950: Their second son, James Earl Carter III, was born while the family was living in Honolulu, Hawaii. He goes by Chip.
Chip Carter in 1977.
Chip Carter in 1977.

Chip was born in Honolulu, where Carter was stationed with the Navy at the time.

After working on his family's peanut farm, Chip Carter served on the city council in Plains and later worked on the Democratic National Committee. He then worked at Friendship Force, a nonprofit organization focused on building international connections between people.

August 18, 1952: They had their third child, Donnel Jeffrey Carter, who is known as Jeff.
Jeff Carter, Jimmy Carter's third son, pictured in 1976 in New York City.
Jeff Carter, Jimmy Carter's third son, in 1976.

He was born in New London, Connecticut.

Jeff spent the first years of his marriage to his wife, Annette, living in the White House.

In 1978, he graduated from George Washington University, where he studied geography with a specialty in computer cartography. Later, he became a co-founder of Computer Mapping Consultants.

1953: They moved back to Georgia, where they worked together on Carter's family farm and he started his political career.
Jimmy Carter on his peanut farm in 1976
Jimmy Carter on his peanut farm in 1976.

After his father died in July 1953, Jimmy Carter left the Navy to move his family back to Plains, where he worked for the family's peanut farm.

"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 in 2021. "I knew more on paper about the business than he did. He would take my advice about things."

Once home, Carter eventually turned his attention to politics, serving as a Georgia state senator from 1963 to 1967.

October 19, 1967: Amy Carter, the couple's youngest child, was born.
Amy Carter in 1976.
Amy Carter in 1976.

In addition to being the only daughter of Jimmy and Rosalynn, Amy is the only Carter child who spent their younger years in the White House.

She initially attended Brown University, but she eventually completed her bachelor's degree at Memphis College of Art in 1991 before earning her master's in art history from Tulane University in 1996. She is now a board member for The Carter Center.

January 12, 1971: Carter began serving as the governor of Georgia, making Rosalynn the state's first lady.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1973.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1973.

Carter served as the governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1957. During her time as the first lady of Georgia, Rosalynn focused on helping Georgians suffering from mental health issues. She served on the Governor's Commission to Improve Services to the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped.

August 7, 1975: They become grandparents with the birth of their first grandchild, Jason James Carter.
President Jimmy Carter and his extended family.
Jason James Carter is pictured top left.

Jason James Carter was born in 1975 to parents Jack Carter and Julie Langford. In 2010, Jason James Carter was elected to the Georgia Senate, although his grandfather didn't campaign for him until just before the election.

"I needed to be more than Jimmy Carter's grandson and I needed to be sure that I could introduce myself and my vision for this state in an effective way," Jason James Carter said in 2010.

In 2014, he followed in his grandfather's footsteps and ran for governor of Georgia, albeit unsuccessfully. 

Jimmy and Rosalynn have eight other grandchildren, a handful of whom have opted out of the public eye. James Carter IV, the son of Chip and Caron Carter, also works in politics as an opposition researcher.

They also have 22 great-grandchildren.

1976: During the 1976 presidential election, Rosalynn traveled the country to campaign for her husband.
Jimmy Carter (center, right) and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, smile after his victory in the Pennsylvania Primary election, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 27, 1976.
Jimmy and Rosalynn smile after his victory in the Pennsylvania primary election on April 27, 1976.

Carter announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on December 12, 1974. Rosalynn was on board from the beginning.

"My wife is much more political," he told the Associated Press in 2021.

She added, "I love it. I love campaigning. I had the best time. I was in all the states in the United States."

The White House's official website says Rosalynn's "belief in her husband's ability to lead the nation was communicated in a quiet, friendly manner that made her an effective campaigner."

November 2, 1976: The couple embraced after learning that Carter had won the 1976 election.
Jimmy Carter embraces his wife Rosalynn after receiving the final news of his victory in the national general election, November 2, 1976
Jimmy Carter embraces his wife Rosalynn after receiving the final news of his victory in the national general election, November 2, 1976.

Carter defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford to win the presidency.

January 20, 1977: Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States with Rosalynn by his side.
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter at the 1977 inauguration.
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter at the 1977 inauguration.

At the 1977 presidential inauguration, the couple shared a kiss after Carter was sworn in as the 39th president of the United States in Washington, DC.

1977: Carter's term started, and Rosalynn became the first lady of the US.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter at the Inaugural Ball in 1977.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter at the Inaugural Ball in 1977.

As the first lady, Rosalynn focused on mental health advocacy. For one year, between 1977 and 1978, she was the honorary chairperson of the president's Commission on Mental Health. In this role, she oversaw a team of social workers, doctors, and lobbyists to enact policy change related to issues of mental illness. describes Rosalynn as a political activist, highlighting how her husband frequently solicited her guidance on both foreign and domestic policy decisions.

1979: President Carter gave Rosalynn a kiss on the cheek after announcing his run for reelection.
President Carter gives Rosalynn a kiss on the cheek after announcing his run for reelection in 1979.
President Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter in 1979.

In 1979, then-president Jimmy Carter announced that he would run for reelection. "Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit," he said in the last leg of his speech, before planting a kiss on Rosalynn's cheek.

He lost the 1980 election to his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan.

1980: After Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan, Rosalynn was outspoken in her support of her husband.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1980.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1980.

In a discussion about the then-upcoming 1984 election with UPI, Rosalynn said, "I think the most important thing is to beat Reagan. I think it's a tragedy what he has done. I feel sorry for who follows him in office."

She praised the decisions her husband made while in office, saying, "Jimmy made the world a safer place with the Panama Canal Treaty, the Camp David agreement, and SALT 2."

In her memoir, "First Lady from Plains," she added, "I would be out there campaigning right now if Jimmy would run again. I miss the world of politics."

"I'd like people to know that we were right, that what Jimmy Carter was doing was best for our country, and that people made a mistake by not voting for him," she wrote.

January 1981: With daughter Amy, the couple moved back to their modest home in Georgia after leaving the White House.
Jimmy, Rosalynn, and Amy Carter smile at the crowds following their return to Plains, Georgia, after leaving the White House in 1981.
Jimmy, Rosalynn, and Amy Carter smile at the crowds following their return to Plains, Georgia, after leaving the White House in 1981.

After Jimmy lost the 1980 election, the couple moved back to Plains, Georgia, in January 1981.

In 2018, The Washington Post reported that Jimmy Carter is the only president in recent history to return to the house he lived in before the White House. The couple moved back to the ranch-style home they'd built, which, according to the Post, was valued at $167,000 — less than the cost of the Secret Service armored cars that follow him around. 



1982: The couple founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization that promotes human rights.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1981.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1981.

The Carter Center aims to increase human rights, put an end to human suffering, and promote democracy worldwide. Included in The Carter Center's provisions is a Mental Health Program, which aimed to continue the work that Rosalynn started while her husband held office.

Thirty years after its founding, in 2012, the Carters were interviewed by Georgia Trend, and the former president discussed his intentions for the organization.

"I imagined something like a small Camp David, where a nation that had a civil war going on or where a civil war might break out, could come, and we would negotiate between the two opposing sides to try to bring peace, or prevent a war," he said.

The accomplishments of the organization, such as monitoring elections around the world and nearly eradicating the Guinea worm disease, exceeded the couple's wishes.

"But we never dreamed when we started 30 years ago that we'd be involved in elections around the world — no one had ever done it before. And we never dreamed that we'd get involved in tropical, neglected diseases, and that has become the overwhelming thing we do," he said.

1984: They worked with Habitat for Humanity for the first time, beginning a decades-long partnership.
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter on their first Habitat for Humanity project, NYC, 1984.
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter during the first Carter Work Project in New York City in September 1984.

After helping on a project in Americus, Georgia — 10 miles from their hometown, Plains — the Carters "quickly realized that our mission closely aligned with their values," according to Habitat for Humanity.

Later that year, the couple established the Carter Work Project — it would later become known as the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project — by helping renovate a building in New York City.

According to the organization, the Carters have since worked alongside 104,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build and repair more than 4,300 homes.

October 2014: In an interview marking Jimmy Carter's 90th birthday, Rosalynn told People magazine she believes "space" is the key to a lasting marriage.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in April 2014.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in April 2014.

When asked in the joint interview for the secret to a long marriage, Rosalynn said, "I'd say space. One of the hardest times was when we came home from the White House. 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."

As for his secrets to a long life, Jimmy Carter credited exercise and his wife's cooking.

"I exercise and eat right," he said. "My wife is an expert dietitian and a good cook."

Rosalynn added, "I fix fruits and vegetables. Cereal. He never turns down ice cream."

October 2019: After he turned 95, Carter said the secret to a long life was to "marry the best spouse."
Jimmy Rosalynn Carter
The Carters in 2019.

In 2019, Carter became the longest-living president in US history. George H.W. Bush, who died in 2018, had lived until 94.

"It's hard to live until you're 95 years old," Carter told People magazine. "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."

Jimmy and Rosalynn have continued to make public appearances and endorse political candidates.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 2008 at the DNC.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 2008 at the DNC.

The Carters have continued to make appearances at high-profile political events including Democratic National Conventions and presidential inaugurations — the last inauguration they attended was Donald Trump's in 2017. The couple has also publicly supported Democratic candidates, including Raphael Warnock in the 2020 Senate race. 

"President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter's legacy as human rights champions and humanitarians is an inspiration to us all," Warnock wrote on Facebook following the endorsement.

2021: Reflecting on 75 years of marriage, Carter told PBS that if he and Rosalynn experience any "differences" during the day, they "make up and give each other a kiss before we go to sleep."
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter take a break at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity Edmonton in 2017.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter take a break at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity Edmonton in 2017.

"At the end of the day, we try to become reconciled and overcome all the differences that arose during the day," he said in a 2021 interview with PBS.

"We also make up and give each other a kiss before we go to sleep still in bed. And we always read the Bible every night, which adds a different aspect to life. So, we really try to become completely reconciled each night before we go to sleep," Carter added.

In their 2014 interview with People, Carter confirmed they had been reading to each other every night for 40 years.

2023: At 98, Jimmy is in at-home hospice care, surrounded by his family.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 2015.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 2015.

Jimmy Carter is now receiving at-home hospice care at the age of 98. In a statement, the Carter Center said he "has the full support of his family and his medical team."

On February 19, 2023, President Joe Biden tweeted out in support of the former president, writing, "To our friends Jimmy and Rosalynn and to their family – Jill and I are with you in prayer and send you our love."

Read the original article on Insider

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