Ga. hometown mourning the loss of ‘ray of light’ Rosalynn Carter

She spent most of her life in Plains, Georgia.
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 10:35 AM EST
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PLAINS, Ga. - This week, the town of Plains woke is without their matriarch.

“She was our first lady. Even before she became the first lady of the country. She was our first lady,” said Linda Campbell, a Plains native.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. at her Plains home.

She was surrounded by family, according to The Carter Center.

“It’s very bittersweet. She’s in a better place right now. She’s not suffering, so that is very good. The world has to learn to live without that ray of hope. So it’s a sad day,” said Jill Stuckey, longtime friend of the Carters and superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park.


Stuckey said she has hosted both the first lady and former President Jimmy Carter at her home for the last 15 years for dinners.

Stuckey now helps run the Plains High School Visitors Center, allowing members of the public to walk the halls where Rosalynn and Jimmy went to school from first to eleventh grades.

“She clearly took what she learned here and ran. She ran all right. And she took Jimmy with her,” said Stuckey.

On Monday, in many ways, Plains just moved on like any other Monday. Workers moved through Buffalo Peanut Co., a handful of visitors bustled through the quaint downtown and volunteers hung Christmas lights outside the town square.

“I was really shocked when I found out she had passed, and I was very upset, and then it dawned on me, why not look at it differently?” said Philip Kurland, owner of Plains Trading Post. “Why don’t we all become a little kinder and treat everyone a little better?”

Many people who worked closely with the former first lady said she gave back to the community effortlessly without a second thought.

“She was someone you wanted to be with, you wanted to talk to because you can sense that she cared about you and about your problems,” said Dr. Steven Hochman, adviseor to the Carters for 40 years. “A remarkable person and we will all miss her terribly.”

People are remembering her as a sweet Southern angelic woman who left her mark all over the world in a big way.

“I believe that it’s truly a tragedy to this entire area because she was probably one of the most selfless individuals that we’ve ever known, not just in this area, but in this entire nation,” said Dr. Sandra Smith, a Plains visitor.

In Plains, Rosalynn’s mission to save the monarch butterflies has become a reflection of who she is as a person — a graceful survivor ready to fight for whoever needs an advocate.

Her advocacy works not only took flight in the wilderness but also in the closed doors of people’s homes. Some Plains visitors tell WALB they are still thankful for the first lady’s dedicated role in caregiving and mental health initiatives.

“All that she’s done, various things over the years, she’s had such a huge impact,” said Andy Smith, another Plains visitor.

Isabella Daniel, another Plains visitor, also said she isn’t forgetting Rosalynn’s public display in the decades-old love story she and former President Jimmy Carter shared throughout the years — something many say will be an example for generations to come.

“I thank her for her service to our country, and just for leaving a good legacy and standing beside her husband, which I know wasn’t an easy job for him being the president,” she said.

That spirit of humility is what so many say they’ll never forget about Rosalynn.

“People are going to be talking about her for years or centuries. You know, all that she did, and she’ll never be forgotten that’s for sure,” Smith said.

There will be a funeral for Rosalynn on Wednesday at Maranatha Baptist Church, where the Carters are long-time members.

“As a member of Maranatha, Mrs. Carter has selflessly served her congregation and her community as a Sunday school teacher, a deacon, and the founder of the church’s food ministry, a monthly food distribution that now includes volunteers from across the community serving thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of local families on the third Saturday of each month,” the church said in a posted statement on its website.

The service is open to family and invited family.

Rosalynn will be laid to rest on her family property in Plains.