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Rosalynn Carter, former first lady, remembered in 3-day memorial services across Georgia

The life and legacy of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96, will be celebrated over three days this week in a series of memorial services across Georgia, from Atlanta to her hometown of Plains, where she will be laid to rest outside the home she shared for decades with the nation's 39th president.

The events will begin Monday with a wreath laying ceremony at her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, according to a schedule from the Carter Center. In the evening, Rosalynn Carter will lie in repose for several hours at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.

A tribute service is scheduled to take place Tuesday at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University. And Rosalynn Carter's funeral service will occur in Plains on Wednesday at the Maranatha Baptist Church, where the former president taught Sunday school for decades.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will attend the Tuesday tribute service. Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will also travel to Georgia for the memorial.

The former first lady will be buried in a private ceremony at the home she's shared with her husband since they had it built in the 1960s. Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter were married for 77 years. They had four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter sit together during a reception to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on July 10, 2021, in Plains, Georgia. The Carter family shared news that Rosalynn Carter has dementia, The Carter Center announced Tuesday, May 30, 2023.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter sit together during a reception to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on July 10, 2021, in Plains, Georgia. The Carter family shared news that Rosalynn Carter has dementia, The Carter Center announced Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

Scott Kaufman, a professor of history at Francis Marion University and the author of a "Rosalynn Carter: Equal Partner in the White House," told USA TODAY speakers and reflections at the week's events will likely focus on her many initiatives, especially her work on mental health care and advocacy for the rights of caregivers and gender equality.

Kaufman said her time as first lady will also be highlighted, as she transformed the role into a full-time job. She was the first to sit in on Cabinet meetings, set up an office in East Wing and hire a full staff. Regarding her time in the White House, Kaufman called her "a groundbreaker."

"I have no doubt that during the ceremonies a lot will be mentioned about all that she worked for, and, in a good number of ways, accomplished in terms of trying to get these initiatives promoted and enacted into law," he said. "When it comes to activist first ladies Rosalynn Carter – if she's not at the top, she's darn close to it."

Amber Roessner, a professor at the University of Tennessee who has written extensively on the Carters, told USA TODAY the locations of the funeral events are significant because they're places of great importance to the couple, especially their shared hometown of Plains.

The pair lived in Atlanta for years during the former president's governorship. It's where in 1982 they founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit foundation committed to advancing human rights through various programs. Rosalynn Carter created the organization's mental health program to fight the stigma and discrimination of people with mental illnesses – an issue for which she's been a fierce advocate since her husband ran for governor.

Americus is where the former first lady attended college at Georgia Southwestern State University. In 1987, she founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at her alma matter which has helped caregivers through direct service programs and reform policy initiatives.

Rosalynn Carter sits next to her Caring for Children lifetime achievement award during a ceremony in Washington on July 12, 2002. She was honored for her contribution to improving the quality of life for vulnerable children and their families.
Rosalynn Carter sits next to her Caring for Children lifetime achievement award during a ceremony in Washington on July 12, 2002. She was honored for her contribution to improving the quality of life for vulnerable children and their families.

For both Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, however, no place compares to Plains.

It's where they both grew up, just 3 miles apart, and where they'd eventually forge the longest marriage in U.S. presidential history. The Carters always returned to Plains after several years away, such as when Jimmy Carter was in the Navy, and then during his time as governor and president. After losing reelection in 1980, the Carters moved back to Plains for the last time and settled in the modest one-story ranch they built in 1961.

"I don't think you can stress the significance of Plains enough," Roessner said. "In addition to it being home, it was such an nourishing and regenerating space for them where they could find themselves in these key moments of their lives."

Roessner said the week's events provide opportunities to regard Rosalynn Carter's life, especially for the people of Plains and others throughout Georgia who saw and interacted with the former first lady on a daily bases.

"As much as it's a somber time, it's a special time for the citizens of Plains, citizens of Atlanta and citizens of our country to really reflect upon the life and legacy of Rosalynn, and the ways in which her life shaped that of so many," Roessner said.

Complete schedule of Rosalynn Carter's memorial services

Monday:

10:25 a.m.: The Carter family motorcade will arrive at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Georgia. Rosalynn Carter's remains will be moved to a hearse, accompanied by past and present members of her U.S. Secret Service detail.

10:40 a.m.: The motorcade will depart the grounds of the medical center on a public route to nearby Georgia Southwestern State University. The public is invited to pay respects along the motorcade route.

11 a.m.: Motorcade arrives at the Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex at Georgia Southwestern State University, where wreaths will be laid.

11:15 a.m.: Motorcade departs for The Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta.

3:15 p.m.: Arrival ceremony at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

3:30 p.m.: Repose service in lobby of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

6-10 p.m.: The Carter family invites members of the public to pay their respects as the former first lady lies in repose at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Parking and a shuttle will be available at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 435 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta.

Tuesday:

11:30-11:45 a.m.: Carter Presidential Center departure ceremony. Motorcade proceeds to Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University.

1-2:30 p.m.: Tribute service at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University with invited guests.

Wednesday:

10:55 a.m.: The funeral procession arrives at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.

11 a.m.: A service for family and invited friends takes place at the church.

12:30 p.m.: The casket will be transferred to a hearse and depart for private interment at the Carter family residence.

Contributing: Marina Pitofsky

Christopher Cann is a breaking news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach him via email at ccann@usatoday.com or follow him on X @ChrisCannFL.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Remembering Rosalynn Carter: 3-day memorial services begin in Georgia