In 1984, former first lady Rosalynn Carter published her memoir First Lady from Plains. It was her first book, and it became a bestseller.

Carter died at age 97 in November.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s review of First Lady from Plains was titled “The ‘Steel Magnolia’ puts her life in print.” 

It is clear from her memoir that Carter enjoyed politics. Prior to the book’s publication, she told reporters that she missed campaigning for her husband.

“I would be out there campaigning right now if Jimmy would run again,” she said. She said she found political campaigning “thrilling.” Jimmy did not run again.

Carter said that after the election the former president spent his time in his personal “woodworking shop” while she enjoyed “baking bread and experimenting with a food processor.” 

Both Carters were active with the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, which provides safe housing for vulnerable families. After Carter’s death, Habitat for Humanity’s website published a touching tribute.

In First Lady from Plains, Carter’s thrill for campaigning with Jimmy Carter in his Georgia gubernatorial campaigns is energetically described over 15 pages. In 1966, Jimmy Carter’s first campaign for governor was unsuccessful.

The Carters were upset when Georgians elected “a fiery segregationist”: Lester Maddux (1915-2003). In 1972, Jimmy Carter was elected governor with Maddux as his lieutenant governor.

Rosalynn Carter wrote that campaigning for the presidency in 1976 “was like our old campaigning in Georgia.” The campaigns were “old-fashioned” rural politics involving print newspapers, radio/TV interviews, telephone calls, mailing campaign literature, and hand-shaking at outdoor events. 

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was little known to voters who asked: “Jimmy Who?”

Rosalynn Carter’s campaign pitches for her husband included informing voters who he was and stressing his community service on the hospital authority, library board, school board, and chamber of commerce and as a scoutmaster and church leader.

Her final pitch was that Jimmy Carter was an outsider to Washington. This was an important point for a politician to make in the years immediately following the Watergate scandal.

Carter had the support of many entertainment figures, including Willie Nelson, Leontyne Price, the Allman Brothers Band, Jimmy Buffett, and the Marshall Tucker Band, among others.

Newspaper coverage of these entertainers helped voters understand who Jimmy Carter was. In her book, Rosalynn Carter describes a sad meeting the Carters had with Elvis Presley near his death.

In the 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated incumbent President Gerald R. Ford. Rosalynn Carter was proud and “thrilled” of her work on the campaign.

After his presidency, Jimmy Carter published numerous books, including one book, Everything to Gain, with his wife.

In the book, the Carters wrote about their struggles after the “crisis” of electoral defeat in 1980. Writing the book with her husband was, Rosalynn Carter said, such a difficult experience that she would never write another book with him.

Carter leaves a legacy of public service to Georgia and our nation. She also leaves a great memoir: First Lady from Plains.


James Patterson is a writer and speaker based in the D.C. area.

Have questions?

We are just a click away!