LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The country is mourning the loss of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s wife of 77 years.
According to the Carter Center, she died Sunday after living with dementia and suffering many months of declining health.
Carter is known by many for not only her work alongside President Carter in the White House, but her decades of community service across the globe.
During her husband’s presidency, Carter formed a friendship with Betty Bumpers, wife of former governor Dale Bumpers.
According to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the two worked closely together for years, advocating for childhood immunization. This led to the first federal comprehensive childhood immunization initiative, which was launched in 1977.
Their work together also resulted in laws passed in every state requiring vaccinations before entry into school.
In 1991, responding to the 1989-1991 measles epidemic, Betty Bumpers and Rosalynn Carter founded Every Child by Two to ensure that all children in America are immunized on schedule by age two and that states develop immunization registries.
Carter also spent decades building affordable homes through Habitat for Humanity, alongside another former First Lady of Arkansas, Janet Huckabee, wife of former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee first connected with Carter through the immunization advocacy she did with Bumpers, then went on to serve for a few decades with Carter on Habitat for Humanity projects across the globe.
“It’s sad,” Huckabee said. “She was the First Lady of the United States, so as a country we should mourn, but I lost a friend, too that day.”
At face value, the two might seem like an unlikely duo: Carter being a Democrat, and Huckabee a Republican. Huckabee said what they shared, however, was much more significant to them: their faith and family-oriented spirits.
Huckabee said Carter should always be seen as an inspiration for women, inspiring them to do the heavy lifting, whether that is literally- through her Women Build program under Habitat for Humanity or in daily life. What should also inspire not only women but men, too, is the marriage she is known best for.
“I think the most important attribute I would say really of both of them, but Mrs. Carter was that she was married to that same man for 77 years,” Huckabee said.
In one of the couple’s last speaking engagements together before her death, Carter told a crowd of people the story of when she met her husband.
“Along came Jimmy Carter, and my life’s been an adventure ever since,” she said.
President Carter released a statement following his wife’s death Sunday.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” he said. “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.”
The Carters’ work on Habitat for Humanity led to another initiative formed under the organization that Huckabee said has contributed to the cause greatly.
It was once known as the Jimmy Carter Work Project, though it was later renamed to Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
Through this, the Carters have rallied thousands of volunteers, supporters and celebrities to take part in helping Habitat for Humanity become internationally recognized for their work to build affordable housing.
Huckabee continues to work with this group and told KARK 4 News that their mission will forever be more successful because of the two’s contributions.