Spirit of 76: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter reach rare wedding anniversary

Former First Couple celebrate with ice cream

Last year, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their wedding anniversary with a huge party in Plains.

In addition to neighbors, the guest list of more than 300 people included former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, civil rights icon Andrew Young, country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and media mogul Ted Turner.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary with a private reception for more than 300 invited guests at Plains High School in Plains on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)


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But this year? No party. No trips. No elaborate dinner. No visits from heads of state.

After more than three-quarters of a century together, who needs it?

The former president and his wife spent a quiet afternoon in their hometown in middle Georgia marking 76 years of marriage today.

“Several friends and family went by to give them well wishes on this monumental day,” said Jill Stuckey, superintendent of the National Park Service’s Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains. “They topped it off with a special meal and lots of ice cream. A favorite of President Carter’s.”

Ice cream seemed like the perfect dessert to cap a milestone that is so rare that the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t keep statistics on how many couples make it that far. Only 6% of married couples make it to even 50 years.

Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter share big smiles in front of busts of them during a March visit to the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains. The couple celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary on July 7, 2022.

Credit: National Park Service

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Credit: National Park Service

Carter, who was the country’s 39th president before enjoying a long post-presidency that saw him become only the second Georgian to win a Nobel Peace Prize, has said that of all his accomplishments, saying “I do,” to Rosalynn Smith on July 7, 1946, in a tiny Methodist church in Plains, was his greatest.

“The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn. That’s the pinnacle of my life,” Carter said in 2015.

In this undated photo, Jimmy and Rosalynn sit on the back of a car in a parade; campaigning. (Carter family photo / Jimmy Carter Library)

Credit: Jimmy Carter Library

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Credit: Jimmy Carter Library

He was a 21-year-old U.S. Naval Academy graduate. She was the 18-year-old salutatorian of Plains High School who had fallen in love with a photograph of the future president that she had seen hanging on the bedroom wall of her friend Ruth, Carter’s sister.

Now, through the White House, trips all over the world through their work with the Carter Center, and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the Carters are still holding strong at 76 years.

The Carters are the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history, followed by former president George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, who were married for 73 years and 102 days until Barbara’s 2018 death.

Stuckey said the National Historical Park has seen increased traffic this week, mostly from well-wishers hoping to send congratulatory messages to the couple.

“Everybody down here is excited about the anniversary,” Stuckey said. “Not many people get this far. And whenever I go visit them, they are always sitting side-by-side — holding hands.”

In 2021, to mark their 75th anniversary, Jimmy Carter, 97 and Rosalynn Carter, 94, chatted with Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Ernie Suggs about what their enduring union has taught them.

You can read that interview here.