Rosalynn And Jimmy Carter Hold This Impressive Presidential-Couple Record

When Rosalynn Carter recently died at the age of 96 following a diagnosis of dementia in May, 2023, she took with her a lifetime of goodwill, charity, kindness, and political insight. Back when she helped her husband Jimmy Carter run for president in 1976, U.S. News & World Report wrote of her that she "campaign[ed] with the untiring race-horse type of energy," (via NBC News) and throughout her and her husband's public life preferred personal, face-to-face communication with voters. After her husband's presidency, she adopted the role of mental health advocate same as she hefted metal sheets while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. All the while she and Jimmy built a family that includes 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, lived in the same, simple, hand-built house for 62 years, and sustained an absolutely stunning 77-year-long marriage, making them the longest-married U.S. presidential couple in history.

As Biography recounts, Jimmy and Rosalynn grew up as neighbors and dated from early adulthood. In fact, Jimmy was only 3 years old when he first met his future partner-for-life, as his mother Lillian helped deliver Rosalynn in 1927. When a date of Jimmy's fell through on one, fateful, storybook night, he seized the moment and asked the 17-year-old Rosalynn to the movies. The Washington Post reports that Jimmy told his mother the very next day that he and Rosalynn were going to get married. The ever-practical Rosalynn, meanwhile, said that she "didn't know that for years." Nonetheless, they got married before they finished college, and never left each other's side.

'I love you the goodest'

As NBC News reports, President Carter said of his late wife, "Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me." At the same time, 2018 Jimmy said that the "folks in town" — speaking of the small, countryside town of Plains, Georgia – "take care of us" per The Washington Post. That's because, to the people in town, the Carters were just another mild-mannered, pleasant couple. Speaking of Jimmy, one local teenager said, "He's a nice guy, just like a regular person," while another said, "He's a good ol' Southern gentleman." It takes the kind of stable, down-to-earth, community-minded decades that went into Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's marriage to build such a life and reputation.

And to be sure, Jimmy and Rosalynn lasted so long because they put in the effort — they cultivated their unique, long-lasting relationship every day. Back when the two first started dating Jimmy had just joined the Navy, as The Washington Post explains, and the two maintained a long-distance relationship. That's when they started their personal, secret message to each other: "ILYTG," aka, "I love you the goodest" — back in the 1940s, mind you. They said it to each other often, and as People says, their children continued the tradition as the family grew over decades. 

Publicly and privately hand-in-hand

In the early days of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's marriage, NBC News says that Jimmy's naval commission took them to so many different places that their four children were each born in different states. It was during this time the two not only built their personal life but also their public life. When Jimmy took over the family peanut farm in 1953, Rosalynn took care of the business side of things. Jimmy got into politics in 1962 when he got a seat on the Georgian senate, and then followed up with an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1966, only to come back and win the seat in 1970. By 1976 she shifted her focus to aiding her husband during his bid for presidency. According to NBC News, reporters in 1976 wrote, "Top aides claim Mrs. Carter is her husband's most influential political adviser." In other words, Jimmy and Rosalynn couldn't have been more perfect for each other.

As for how they managed to stay together, Jimmy chalked it up to mutually supportive independence. On Good Morning America in 2021 he said, "We've survived this long together because first of all, we give each other plenty of space to do our own thing." At the same time, they have shared, simple hobbies like fly fishing and taking trips. In the same interview, Rosalynn said, "We're always looking to do things or find things we can do together."