ATLANTA - Wednesday marks 75 years since a U.S. Navy midshipman from Plains, Georgia, exchanged vows with a woman he'd met and fell in love with just one year earlier.
Jimmy Carter, now a 96-year-old former president, and Rosalynn Carter, a 93-year-old human rights figure and mental health advocate, have spent more than three-quarters of their long lives together. Jimmy Carter is already the longest-living former president in U.S. history and the Carters' marriage is the longest of any presidential couple.
The Carters plan to celebrate their marriage milestone a few days after their anniversary with a party in Plains. They're concerned they won't have the space for all of their guests.
"We have too many people invited," Rosalynn Carter said with a laugh. "I’m actually praying for some turndowns and regrets."
The Carters were married in 1946. Jimmy Carter resigned from his military career in 1953 after the death of his father, James Earl Carter Sr.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were married in Plains, Georgia on July 7, 1946. (The Carter Library and Museum)
"We developed a partnership when we were working in the farm supply business, and it continued when Jimmy got involved in politics," Rosalynn Carter told the Associated Press. "I knew more on paper about the business than he did. He would take my advice about things."
After taking over his family's farm, Jimmy Carter emerged as a community leader and won a bid for a seat in the Georgia Senate in 1962.
That was the beginning of a political career that led him to the governor's mansion in 1971, and then the White House in 1976.
During her husband's administration, Rosalynn Carter became an esteemed advocate of mental health. Rosalynn Carter was active as the honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health, which helped pass the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. The law outlined rights for mental health patients to receive the protection and services they require and placed emphasis on the mental health needs of minority populations.
Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, but Rosalynn has said the trail made the couple stronger.
"I love it. I love campaigning," she told the AP. "I had the best time. I was in all the states in the United States. I campaigned solid every day the last time we ran."
President and Mrs. Carter receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton at a ceremony at The Carter Center in Atlanta. (Photo courtesy of Carter Center)
The couple's humanitarian efforts continued after their White House residency. 1982, the co-founded founded The Carter Center, an organization dedicated to educating the public and furthering human rights initiatives.
Jimmy Carter has been outspoken for women’s rights and the devout couple criticized the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006, denouncing what he called "rigid" views that "subjugated" women in the church and in their own marriages.
The Carters are also supportive of same-sex marriage.
Within the past few years, the pair have battled through health scares, but have been in reasonably good health for a couple in their 90s. They self-isolated through the COVID-19 pandemic and got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. This allowed the couple to return to one of their favorite activities together: church.
In late February of this year, the Carters sat in their usual spot inside Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, both wearing masks. The Carters have been known to preach at the church.
"Every day there needs to be reconciliation and communication between the two spouses," the former president said. "We don’t go to sleep with some remaining differences between us."
While sidelined for the past year and a half, both remain active working with Habitat for Humanity and various activist causes and philanthropy through the Carter Center.
"Jimmy and I are always looking for things to do together," Mrs. Carter said, adding that it is also important for each of them to have "some space".
The couple also remains big supporters of the home teams like the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks. The pair was even caught a few years back on the Hawks' "Kiss Cam" twice which took the internet by storm both times.
According to the Jimmy Carter Library, on his 75th birthday, Carter was asked to name the most important thing he had ever done. His reply: "Marrying Rosalynn."
"Every day there needs to be reconciliation and communication between the two spouses," the former president said in a recent interview.
This story is being reported out of Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed to this report
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