A headshot of Mrs. Rosalynn Carter.

Remembering Rosalynn Carter

A life of compassion and grace. A heart full of the desire to help others. A faith that drove her to pick up a hammer and help build a better world. 

As Habitat for Humanity mourns the loss of Rosalynn Carter, we also honor the many cherished memories that we have of her. We were privileged to receive more than 30 years of steadfast support from this leader, partner and friend. We draw strength from her unshakeable belief that, together, we could — and should — make this a world where everyone has a decent place to live. 

Hers was not a long-distance activism. Her optimism and the actions it required were practical and personal. More than most, she understood that the way to truly be of service was to draw alongside a person in need and to help them change their reality from within. 

From even before the time she was a nation’s first lady, she always spoke out unfailingly on the issues she cared about most — mental health foremost among them. But she also always sought the chance to speak, with trademark quiet kindness, to the real people and families who found themselves living inside those very issues that she was working so hard to address. 

In the beginning, she would always fondly recall, she wasn’t certain about building with Habitat. She’d never built before, and she wasn’t sure she would start now. She’d help, she promised modestly, but maybe with the sandwiches. 

She did so much more, finding by the end of that first day in New York City that she had picked up a hammer that was impossible to put down. She once joked that she’d made it to that first build site a little after the former president, so that — when the record was written — it should probably reflect that he’d worked an hour longer than she had. 

That one hour notwithstanding, she was always there from then on, side by side with her husband, traveling to build in 14 countries. In 2008, when Habitat renamed our signature event to reflect that role and unveiled the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, she said — with a smile — “I think it looks pretty nice to have my name up there with Jimmy’s.” 

They were a powerful duo, and she was his full and equal partner. After the president experienced a health scare during the 2017 build week, Mrs. Carter took to the stage of the closing ceremony to set the record straight. “There has never been,” she said, “any kind of damage at all to Jimmy Carter’s heart.” A pause, and then that familiar small, smart smile. “I knew he had a good heart.” 

The moment — and the words that followed — revealed the depth of her own. 

“I want to thank everybody here,” she continued, “the good hearts in this room. Everybody. Because you would not be here unless you had a good heart, the kind of heart that I’m talking about tonight.”