Former President Jimmy Carter emerges in rare public appearance at wife Rosalynn's memorial

Former President Jimmy Carter made a rare public appearance at the memorial for his wife, Rosalynn

The service was held Tuesday at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta and is the second day of a three-day schedule of public events celebrating the former first lady and global humanitarian who died Nov. 19 at home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. 

President Carter, who is 10 months into home hospice care and hadn't been seen in public since September, watched from his wheelchair, reclined a bit with his legs up and covered by a blanket with his wife's face on it, with Chip and his daughter Amy holding his hands. Their other sons, Jeff and Jack, flanked them.

RELATED: WATCH: Rosalynn Carter: Tribute service begins for Carter in Atlanta church

The former president stayed Monday night at The Carter Center, CEO Paige Alexander said, steps from where the former first lady lay in repose.

"He never wants to be very far from her," she said. "He had a good night. He’s rested."


Former US President Jimmy Carter arrives for a tribute service for former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, at Glenn Memorial Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 28, 2023. Carter died on November 19, aged 96, just two days after joining her husband

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, their longtime friends, were among the dignitaries. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with former first ladies Melania Trump, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, paid their respects, as did Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Georgia's U.S. senators and Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty Kemp joined more than 1,000 people in the sanctuary. Former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George W. Bush were invited but will not attend.

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The service reflected Rosalynn Carter’s status as a global figure while emphasizing her more private profile as a family matriarch who preferred a simple life and held a deep religious faith.

"She had met kings and queens, presidents, others in authority, powerful corporate leaders and celebrities," Chip Carter said. "She said the people that she felt the most comfortable with and the people she enjoyed being with the most were those that lived in absolute abject poverty."

The pews filled with political power players, but front and center were her children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren — all surrounding Jimmy Carter, who grieved not as a former president, but as her partner of 77 years.

RELATED: A timeline of key moments from former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s 96 years

The speakers came from many chapters of her long life: Chip as the son who remembers his once-shy mother coming into her own in business and politics; Kathryn Cade as the White House aide who stayed on as a close adviser as Rosalynn Carter helped build The Carter Center and its global reach; Judy Woodruff as the journalist who covered the Carter presidential campaign; and Amy, who read a love note her father wrote to her mother 75 years before.

"Her time as First Lady was really just one chapter in a life that was about caring for others," Cade said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.