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Three-day memorial services begin in Georgia

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Three-day memorial services begin in Georgia

The life and legacy of former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who died Nov. 19 at age 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 buried buried outside the home she shared for decades with the country’s 39th president.

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

A memorial service will be held Tuesday at Emory University’s Glenn Memorial Church. And Rosalynn Carter’s funeral service will be held Wednesday in Plains 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 tribute on Tuesday. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gen. Doug Emhoff will also travel to Georgia for the memorial service.

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

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

Kaufman said her time as first lady will also be highlighted, as she turned the role into a full-time job. She was the first to attend cabinet meetings, set up an office in the East Wing and hire a full staff. Reflecting on her time in the White House, Kaufman called her “a trailblazer.”

“I have no doubt that during the ceremonies there will be a lot of mention of everything that she has worked for and what she has achieved in many ways in trying to promote these initiatives and enact them into law,” he said. “When it comes to activist first lady Rosalynn Carter, if she’s not at the top, she’s pretty darn close.”

Amber Roessner, a professor at the University of Tennessee who has written extensively about the Carters, told USA TODAY that the locations of the funeral events are significant because they are places of great significance to the couple, particularly their shared hometown Plains.

The couple lived in Atlanta for years during the former president’s administration. There they founded the Carter Center in 1982, a nonprofit foundation that promotes human rights through various programs. Rosalynn Carter created the organization’s mental health program to combat stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness, an issue she has been passionate about since her husband’s run for governor.

In Americus, 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 policy reform initiatives.

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

For Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, however, there is no place like Plains.

It’s where they both grew up, just 3 miles apart, and where they eventually had 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 the Carters lost re-election in 1980, they moved back to Plains for the final time, settling on the modest one-story ranch they had built in 1961.

“I think you can’t overstate the importance of Plains,” Roessner said. “It was not only their home, but also a nourishing and rejuvenating place where they could find themselves at these key moments in their lives.”

Roessner said this week’s events provide an opportunity to consider Rosalynn Carter’s life, particularly for the people in Plains and other places across Georgia who saw and interacted with the former first lady daily.

“As dark as it is, it is a special time for the citizens of Plains, the citizens of Atlanta and the citizens of our country to truly reflect on the life and legacy of Rosalynn and how her life shaped the lives of so many people ” said Rössner.

Full schedule of memorial services for Rosalynn Carter

Monday:

10:25 a.m.: The Carter family motorcade will arrive at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Georgia. Rosalynn Carter’s remains are transported into a hearse accompanied by past and present members of her U.S. Secret Service command.

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

11 clock: The motorcade arrives at Georgia Southwestern State University’s Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex, where wreaths will be laid.

11:15 a.m.: Motorcade heads to 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 the lobby of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

6 p.m. – 10 p.m.: The Carter family invites the public to pay their respects as the former First Lady rests at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Parking and a shuttle are available at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 435 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta.

Tuesday:

11:30-11:45 a.m.: Carter Presidential Center Farewell Ceremony. Motorcade heads to Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University.

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

Wednesday:

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

11 clock: A service for family and invited friends will be held at the church.

12:30 pm: The casket is transferred to a hearse and taken away for private burial at the Carter family residence.

Featuring: Marina Pitofsky

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

Portrait of Rosalynn Carter at the Carter Center, 1993.