A young midshipman was looking for a date while he was at home in the U.S. His younger sister, who was a Navy Academy student, paired him up with a friend from his family.
Nearly eight decades later, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn are still together in the small town where they were both born and grew up. Between, they have traveled the globe as a Naval officer, military spouse, American president, first lady, and finally, as ambassadors for human rights and public healthcare.
The 39th president said that it was a complete partnership during a joint interview with The Associated Press ahead of the couple’s 75th wedding anniversary, which took place on July 7.
This will mark another milestone in American history for the longest-married couple to be president. Carter, 96, is also the longest-lived chief executive. Carter, despite reaching that pinnacle, has often stated that the most important decision that he made was not as head of state, commander-in-chief, or executive officer of a nuclear submarine during the Cold War’s early years wasn’t that.
It was actually falling in love with Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, and marrying her the next summer. Carter stated, “My greatest secret is to marry the right man if you want a long-lasting marriage.”
Nonagenarians (she’s now 93) offered some other suggestions for a lasting bond.
The former president stated that reconciliation and communication is essential every day between the spouses. He explained that Rosalynn and he, both Christians, read the Bible aloud each night, something they have done together for many years, even though they were separated by travels. He said, “We don’t go to bed with any remaining differences between us.”
Rosalynn Carter emphasized the importance of sharing interests. She said that Jimmy and she are still looking for activities together. This is really important.
Rosalynn Carter, first lady, forged her own identity while supporting her husband. She continued the legacy of her predecessors by highlighting special causes and she set a new standard for first ladies when she worked in her East Wing office. After leaving the White House, she continued to be a strong advocate for special causes as her husband built the Carter Center in Atlanta.
The couple admits that a 75-year-old marriage wasn’t seamless.
In the beginning, Jimmy wanted to be an admiral and not a commander in chief. Rosalynn loved their life beyond Plains which was home to less than 1,000 people at the time. His son, James Earl Carter Sr., became ill and died in 1953. He decided that the family would return home to rural Georgia.
In retrospect, the former president wrote that he found it impossible not to discuss such an important decision with his wife. She was unhappy about the move. They now see the blossoming and development of their partnership at this difficult juncture.
Rosalynn Carter said that they formed a partnership while working in the farm supply industry. This relationship continued when Jimmy became involved in politics. He knew more about the business from paper than I did. She said that he would listen to my advice and she laughed, drawing affirmation from her husband.
Rosalynn was not allowed to allow Jimmy Carter to run for his first election as president a few years later. She was there anyway in that instance.
He said, “My wife is more political than I am.”
She said, “I love it.” Campaigning is something I enjoy. It was the most enjoyable experience. I was in every state in the United States. The last time we ran, I was solid in my campaigning.”
This didn’t stop Republican Ronald Reagan from winning the 1980 election. It cemented Rosalynn, who had given up her chance to go to college at 18 when she was married, as an equal partner to the leader in the free world. It marked Jimmy Carter’s development as a spouse.
Since then, he has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights within Christianity. Carter quit the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 to denounce the “rigid” views which “subjugate” women in the church, and in their own marriages.
These views were reaffirmed by the former president, who also supported same-sex marriage recognition. He said, “It will remain divisive.” “But the church’s evolution is taking place.”
The Carters will celebrate their marriage milestone with a party at Plains a few days following their anniversary. The most prominent Sumter County residents have mixed feelings about being in the limelight, despite having attended state dinners and inaugural balls for decades.
Rosalynn Carter laughed and said, “We have too many guests.” “I’m praying for some turndowns, and regrets.”