PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — Rosalynn Carter will receive her final farewells Wednesday in the same tiny town where she was born and that served as a home base as she and her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, climbed to the White House and spent four decades thereafter as global humanitarians.
The former first lady, who died Nov. 19 at the age of 96, will have her hometown funeral at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, where she and her husband spent decades welcoming guests when they were not traveling. The service comes on the last of a three-day public tribute that began Monday in nearby Americus and continued in Atlanta.
Rosalynn Carter will be buried in a plot she will one day share with her husband, the 99-year-old former president who first met his wife of 77 years when she was a newborn, a few days after his mother delivered her.
“She was born just a few years after women got the right to vote in this small town in the South where people were still plowing their fields behind mules,” grandson Jason Carter said Tuesday during a memorial service in Atlanta.
Coming from that town of about 600 — then and now — Rosalynn Carter became a global figure whose “effort changed lives,” her grandson said. She was Jimmy Carter’s closest political adviser and a political force in her own right, and she advocated for better mental health care in America and brought attention to underappreciated caregivers in millions of U.S. households. She traveled as first lady and afterward to more than 120 countries, concentrating on the developing nations, where she fought disease, famine and abuse of women and girls.
Even so, Jason Carter said his grandmother never stopped being the small-town Southerner whose cooking repertoire leaned heavily on mayonnaise and pimento cheese.
Indeed, the Atlanta portion of the tribute schedule this week has reflected the grandest chapters of Rosalynn Carter’s life — lying in repose steps away from The Carter Center that she and her husband co-founded after leaving the White House, then a funeral filled with the music of a symphony chorus and majestic pipe organ as President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and every living U.S. first lady sat in the front row with Jimmy Carter and the couple’s four children.
The proceedings Wednesday will underscore the simpler constants in Rosalynn Carter’s life. The sanctuary in Plains seats fewer people than the balcony at Glenn Memorial Church where she was honored Tuesday. Maranatha, tucked away at the edge of Plains where the town gives way to cotton fields, has no powerful organ. But there is a wooden cross that Jimmy Carter fashioned in his woodshop and offering plates that he turned on his lathe.
Church members, who are included in the invitation-only congregation, rarely talk of ”President Carter” or “Mrs. Carter.” They are supporting “Mr. Jimmy” as he grieves for “Ms. Rosalynn.”
When the motorcade leaves Maranatha, it will carry Rosalynn Carter for the last time past the old high school where she was valedictorian during World War II, through the commercial district where she became Jimmy’s indispensable partner in their peanut business, and past the old train depot where she helped run the winning 1976 presidential campaign.
Barricades are set up along the route for the public to pay their respects.
Her hearse will pass Plains Methodist Church where she married young Navy Lt. Jimmy Carter in 1946. And it will return, finally, to what locals call “the Carter compound,” property that includes the former first couple’s one-story ranch house, the pond where she fished, the security outposts for the Secret Service agents who protected her for 47 years.
She will be buried in view of the front porch of the home where the 39th American president still lives.