On the first of October, former president Jimmy Carter celebrated his 98th birthday. He celebrated at home with his wife Rosalynn, who he’s been married to for more than 75 years. Despite being together for so long, Jimmy still says that he kisses his wife before bed every single night. Their story is one of love, triumph, and what it means to truly work hard on a relationship.
At 98, Jimmy Carter Still Kisses His Wife Goodnight Every Night Before Bed
Not very many people reach 98 years old. Still less can say that for the majority of that time, they’ve been happily married to and in love with the same person. Former United States President Jimmy Carter, however, can. Not only can he say that, but he does – loudly and proudly. Their marriage has not been perfect and there have been a number of bumps along the way, but the couple have always come out of hardships stronger and more committed to each other. (1)
How Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter Met
I suppose you could call the pair “hometown sweethearts”, because they are both from the same small town of Plains, Georgia. When they were growing up, the town had just 600 residents. Not just from the same town, but they were actually next-door neighbors. Jimmy was born in 1924, and three years later, his mom who was a nurse, delivered Jimmy’s future wife Rosalynn.
Of course, it wasn’t love at first sight for the pair – they were far too young for that. Rosalynn, who’s father died when she was 13 during the height of the Great Depression, was focused on school and helping to support her family. She worked alongside her mother, all the while still graduating high school near the top of her class. Rosalynn also still had time to maintain a few close friends. One of those was her neighbor and Jimmy’s younger sister Ruth.
Jimmy, meanwhile, was fulfilling his dream of attending the Annapolis Naval Academy in Maryland. Rosalynn stayed closer to home, attending Georgia Southwestern College. When Rosalynn would go visit her friend Ruth, she couldn’t help but notice the photos of the handsome eldest Carter son in his white Navy uniform. Of course, Jimmy was older and hadn’t necessarily taken notice of Rosalynn before.
One summer evening, when Jimmy had come home from school, he was out driving around the town. His plans had fallen through with another girl and he didn’t exactly know what to do. That’s when he drove past his sister Ruth walking with their neighbor, Rosalynn, who was 17 at the time. For the first time, he realized how truly lovely Rosalynn was. He sidled up beside them, rolled down the window, and asked Rosalynn to come to the movies with him. She accepted, and it was after that movie that the couple shared their first kiss. Jimmy says that he was completely smitten by the shy young girl. So much so, that he went home and told his mother that he’d met the woman that he was going to marry. He turned out to be right.
The couple continued dating even when school started back up again. Certain that she was the one, Jimmy proposed that winter. Rosalynn, however, wanted to finish college. She was concerned that they were moving too fast and that taking such a serious step in their relationship would mean the end of her education, so she initially said no. Jimmy, however, was undeterred. Later that spring, Rosalynn came to visit him in Annapolis. He asked her again, this time accompanying it with a compact engraved with the letters ILYTG, which stands for I love you the goodest. They wed on July 7, 1946 just a few weeks after Jimmy’s graduation at the Plains Methodist Church.
A Navy Wife
Soon after Jimmy was put on assignment with the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia, so off the couple went on their first adventure. It was there in Norfolk where the couple had their first four children. After that, they moved around to Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Pennsylvania again, and Massachusetts. Finally, they began establishing roots in New York state.
Though some might think moving so frequently would be cumbersome, Rosalynn quite enjoyed it, as well as she enjoyed the life they had built in New York. This, however, was not to last. When his father passed away in 1953, Jimmy decided to resign from the Navy to move back home and run the family business, including the Carter family peanut farm. Rosalynn was not happy about returning to Plains and all but refused to speak to her husband. This, Rosalynn would later state, was one of the rockiest points in their marriage. Moving back to their hometown, she felt as though the “best part of her life” was over.
A New Life In Georgia
At first Rosalynn struggled to find purpose and put herself on equal footing with her husband. She was not content to be a housewife and mother – she wanted something more. That’s when she began helping Jimmy with the farm as well as took over the business’s finances. It was thanks to Rosalynn that it truly began turning a profit.
The couple began getting involved in both civic and religious life in Georgia. Jimmy began teaching Sunday school, something that he has continued to do straight through into his 90s. He won a seat in the Georgia State Senate in 1962, from where he also made a run for congress. Jimmy was not successful, so he switched gears and decided to shoot for Governor in 1970. Rosalynn, classically on the shyer side, overcame that and campaigned a great deal for her husband. He won, and Rosalynn became the first lady of Georgia State. This position allowed her to work on causes that she has continued to champion until this day, such as mental health.
Jimmy announced that he would run for president in 1976. Rosalynn traveled the campaign trail with her husband, which spanned more than 40 states. The Carters won and promptly moved with their youngest daughter into the White House in Washington. Rosalynn broke many traditions and barriers as first lady. She became her husband’s closest advisor, something never seen before, and was the first presidential wife to have her own office in the East Wing. She sat in on cabinet meetings, advised on staff and personnel moves, served as an envoy on overseas trips, and even attempted to pass the Equal Rights Amendment like two first ladies before her. That, unfortunately, was unsuccessful.
After Jimmy did not win the re-election in 1980, the couple moved back to their small ranch in Georgia. They continued to champion their various humanitarian causes and their work with Habitat for Humanity. Jimmy later won a Nobel Peace Prize for this work. (2)
A Few Other Bumps in the Road
Things have not always been easy for the Carters. In 2015, for example, they were shaken by Jimmy’s cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, the former president recovered and seven years later has celebrated his 98th birthday. The couple says that the cancer scare has only brought them closer together. They say that on special days like birthdays, they prefer to simply stay home and spend the day together. No non-urgent phone calls taken, no emails sent, no visitors – just a quiet day for only the two of them. Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter’s love is certainly one that has stood the test of time and that has been an inspiration to many.