Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, 99, and his beloved wife Rosalynn dedicated their lives to humanitarian efforts following his departure from DC, and built thousands of homes across the globe.
Carter was elected in 1976 as the nation’s 39th president. Despite his declining health over the last few years, it was his wife Rosalynn who died Sunday at the age of 96 after two days in hospice care.
‘Our co-founder, former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, passed away this afternoon in Plains, Georgia,’ The Carter Center wrote in a statement on the former first lady’s passing.
Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, defeated then President Gerald Ford, who took over the office after Richard Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal.
After his loss in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, Carter and his wife went back to their hometown in Plains, Georgia.
His single term in office was marred by criticism over policies – but the former lawmaker’s subsequent charitable career has been universally praised.
Jimmy and Rosalynn were determined to ‘develop a place to help people resolve disputes’ and created The Carter Center in 1982, partnering with Emory University in Atlanta with a mission to ‘advance peace and health worldwide.’
They also embarked on an affordable housing project with Habitat for Humanity. The couple contributed financially to the Christian nonprofit from 1984 to 2019, and helped build or renovate 4,390 homes across 15 countries.
In September of 1984, Carter and his wife led a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers to New York, building alongside 19 families in need of safe, affordable housing.
That was the inaugural Carter Work Project, which is now a week-long event taking place in a different location all over the world each year.
‘The Carters have seen firsthand the effects that lack of affordable housing has and understand that, to ensure the greatest success, families need a stable, affordable foundation to grow,’ the organization wrote on their website.
‘That often begins with a safe place to call home. With this deeply held mission at its center, the Carters and Habitat formed a partnership.’
The humble ‘president of the people’ said helping others had been his and Rosalynn’s ‘greatest blessing.’
‘I have learned that our greatest blessings come when we are able to improve the lives of others, and this is especially true when those others are desperately poor or in need,’ he said in a question-and-answer on the organization’s website.
‘America is the most diverse or heterogeneous nation, comprised primarily by immigrants who were not afraid of an unpredictable future in a strange land.
‘Almost all of them had great need when they arrived here and were then inspired to be of help to others.
‘This concept of service to others is still a crucial element in the American character and has always prevailed in overcoming challenges and correcting societal mistakes.’
The Carters rallied thousands of volunteers and celebrities to take part in their mission, helping Habitat for Humanity become internationally recognized for its work.
Indeed, even after a fall in October 2019, Carter was seen working and drilling on a Habitat home with Rosalynn.
‘They’ve touched the lives of thousands of Habitat homeowners and volunteers and inspired millions across the globe,’ the statement from Habitat for Humanity added.
Carter also continued to put his foreign affairs knowledge and skills as a negotiator to use, and ‘served as a freelance ambassador for a variety of international missions, including soothing disputes between countries, observing elections in nations with histories of fraudulent voting processes, and advising presidents on Middle East issues.’
In 1994, he helped the U.S. mediate with Kim Il-sung of North Korea regarding a pact on nuclear weapons. He also worked on other negotiations, such as the Nairobi Agreement in 1999 between Sudan and Uganda.
Carter went on a mission to Haiti, and in 2002, he met with Fidel Castro on a trip to Cuba – the first former or sitting U.S. president to visit the island since the 1959 revolution.
That same year, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.’
Carter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, but beat it and continued his work for four years after the health scare, alongside more than 104,000 volunteers.
In a statement released this year, Habitat for Humanity said that the ‘much beloved’ former president and first lady were ‘enjoying their retirement in Plains, Georgia, and will not attend the 2023 project.’
‘Though we could never fill their shoes, we are so incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to carry President and Mrs Carter’s legacy forward through the continuation of the Carter Work Project,’ country music superstar Garth Brooks, who alongside Trisha Yearwood led the project in their place, said.
Carter decided to enter hospice care at his family home in Georgia February 18. Less than a year later, his wife and former first lady Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96 in Plains, Georgia days after entering hospice care on Friday.