Former first lady Rosalynn Carter dies at 96

 Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady who served as a steadfast humanitarian and partner to her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, died Sunday, the Carter Center said. She was 96.

In a statement, the Carter Center said that the former first lady "died peacefully, with family by her side" at her home in Plains, Georgia. A cause of death was not revealed, though it was announced two days ago that Carter had entered hospice care at her home. She had previously been diagnosed with dementia earlier this year.

"Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished," former President Carter said in a statement. "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."

Rosalynn Carter was born in Plains in 1927. She met Jimmy Carter in 1945 and married the future president the next year. When Jimmy Carter launched his political career in the 1960s, she became perhaps his most trusted confidante. As her husband began his ascent toward a presidential campaign, Rosalynn Carter "attracted particular attention for the skillful way she connected with voters, nabbing their support for her husband with down-to-earth warmth," NBC News reported.

When Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, his wife became a well-known champion of mental health, a cause she would promote throughout her life. As first lady, Carter became active in White House affairs and launched "programs that supported health care resources, human rights, social justice and the needs of elderly people," NBC added. She also became the first presidential wife to occupy an office in the East Wing of the White House.

Rosalynn Carter is survived by the former president, who entered hospice care earlier this year at the age of 99, as well as four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.