Jimmy Carter, 4 Former First Ladies Attend Rosalynn Tribute

It was former president's first public appearance since September
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2023 4:22 PM CST
All 4 Living US First Ladies Attend Rosalynn Carter Tribute
Former President Jimmy Carter arrives at a tribute service for his wife and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, at Glenn Memorial Church, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rosalynn Carter was memorialized Tuesday as a matriarch who felt most comfortable among the impoverished and vulnerable as she was mourned by a rare gathering of all living US first ladies and multiple presidents, including her 99-year-old husband Jimmy Carter. The tribute service marked the second day of a three-day schedule of public events celebrating the former first lady and global humanitarian who died Nov. 19 at home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. Tributes began Monday in the Carters' native Sumter County and continued at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta. "My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thicks and thins of our family's politics," her son James Earl "Chip" Carter III said.

The former president, who is 10 months into home hospice care and hadn't been seen in public since September, watched from his wheelchair, reclining and covered by a blanket featuring his wife's face, with Chip and his daughter Amy holding his hands. Their other sons, Jeff and Jack, flanked them. "He never wants to be very far from her," Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander said. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, their longtime friends, joined them in the front row, along with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former first ladies Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush, the AP reports.

More than 1,000 people, including a sizeable contingent of Secret Service agents, filled the sanctuary. Former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush were invited but didn't attend. The service reflected Rosalynn Carter's status as a global figure while emphasizing her more private profile as a family matriarch who preferred a simple life and held a deep religious faith. "She had met kings and queens, presidents, others in authority, powerful corporate leaders and celebrities," Chip Carter said. "She said the people that she felt the most comfortable with and the people she enjoyed being with the most were those that lived in absolute abject poverty."

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"Without Rosalynn Carter, I don't believe there would have been a President Carter," said Judy Woodruff, a journalist who covered the Carter presidency. It was Jimmy Carter's first public appearance since entering hospice care, other than a brief ride with Rosalynn in September's Plains Peanut Festival parade, where they were visible only through the open windows of a Secret Service vehicle. He was with his wife during her final hours, but did not appear publicly during earlier events at Rosalynn Carter's alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, and at his presidential library. Alexander said the trip to Atlanta was "hard" for the former president but "this is her last trip up and it's probably his, too … He's determined." (More Rosalynn Carter stories.)

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