Here is the full transcription of what James Earl “Chip” Carter III said about his mother, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, during a memorial service Tuesday in Atlanta at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus at Emory University.
“I want to welcome you all here. Thank you for coming and helping to mourn with my family and mostly to celebrate a life well-lived.
“My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thicks and thins of our family’s politics. As individuals, she believed in us and took care of us.
“When I was 14, I supported President (Lyndon) Johnson. Every day I wore a Johnson sticker on my shirt, and periodically I would get beat up and my shirt torn and buttons pulled off and my sticker always destroyed. And I would walk the block during lunch from school down to Carter’s Warehouse, and my mother would have a shirt in a drawer, already mended, buttons sewn on and the LBJ sticker still applied.
“Years later she was influential in getting me into rehab for my drug and alcohol addiction. She saved my life.
“When I started making speeches for dad in his political career, I was so nervous I often vomited in the waiting room before we went on stage. And one day after debating seven other children, offspring of candidates for president, I called my mother and told her how nervous I got. And she told me something that I have used a thousand times since. She said, ‘Chip, you can do anything for 20 minutes except hold your breath.’
“When I was in the second grade at Plains, they had a donkey basketball game in the stadium in the school building there to raise money for the school, and my mother rode her donkey as fast as it would slowly go right under the goal, spun around so she was facing its tail, caught the pass and made the winning two points. She was my hero that night, and she’s been my hero ever since.
“A couple of years ago, mom and I were talking when she said that dad asked her to marry her for the second time, she said yes. But she expected him to provide for her a life of adventure. He told her that it would happen.
“She told me that she had lived on both coasts in Hawaii when he was in the Navy and began her family. Mom said when it was decided they would leave the Navy and move back to Plains (Georgia) she was upset. That family story is that they rode in the car from Connecticut to Plains, Georgia and when Mom had something to say to Dad, she would say, ‘Jack, would you tell your father…
“When Dad ran for office the first time my mother ended up running Carter’s Warehouse — she loved it. Every time he would go on a campaign trip or during the legislative session, she was really pleased to be in the office and be the boss. She told me when dad started running for president, that the thing she enjoyed the most was the people that she met across the country and that from working in Carter’s Warehouse she said, ‘I was able to speak the languages, prices and yields and related to everyday issues for farm families, especially in Iowa. She said because of that, she’s the one that helped win that election there.
“Then, as first lady of the United States, always trying to follow the teaching of Jesus, and to do what he taught her to do as a guideline, she said, ‘You will always get criticized by somebody for everything you do, so you might as well do what’s right. She and dad were able to make a positive difference in people’s lives and that of so many families too.
“My parents’ 77-year partnership is often talked about. Mom was always well-informed on the issues of the day. In the White House, mom asked dad so many questions that he finally said that she should attend Cabinet meetings. So she did, and caught a lot of flack for that, but she was then able to speak with authority on issues across our country and the world. She would often try, and often fail, to get dad to do what was right politically. When she couldn’t change dad’s mind she would repeat to herself, ‘a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they need to go.’
“Losing the election in 1980 was devastating to us all. My parents were still young, my mother only 53, and they knew they still had more to contribute. They decided they would become missionaries and spent months trying to decide how to accomplish their goals. Finally, they decided as partners to start The Carter Center, which would allow my mother to continue to fight the stigma of mental illness and allow them both to help the poorest of the poor on this Earth as Jesus had taught them.
“Mom started the Rosalynn Carter Institute at Georgia Southwestern State University to train and support those who help others. At the same time mom and dad continued to support Habitat for Humanity ,and mom continued to support the Friendship Force. She told me that her adventures had led her to more than 120 countries. She had been fly fishing all over the world, she had met kings and queens. Presidents, others in authority, powerful corporate leaders and celebrities. She said the people that she met felt the most comfortable with and the people she enjoyed being with the most were those that lived in absolute abject poverty, the ones without adequate housing, without a proper diet and without access. And she had probably had more adventures than anybody on Earth.
“Mom was always fun to be with. Halloween before the pandemic, Mom showed up at Amy’s house. Amy lives on a street which closes down on Halloween and every house is decorated. Mom was beautifully dressed as a monarch butterfly. The Secret Service were dressed casually but perfectly as Secret Service agents. She proceeded to go up and down the street with her great and grandchildren and go trick or treating up and down and talk to people all over the street. She got back to Amy’s and was so excited because she’d been out so much and nobody had recognized her.
“After Dad went was put in hospice and my mother had dementia, my siblings, my wife and I would stay with them so that there would always be a family member around. One day, my mother was sitting with my wife, Becky, and she was reminiscing on what it was like to go to live in Hawaii, and she was talking about learning all the native dances. She got up from the sofa, pushed her walker away, which she couldn’t take her step without, and proceeded to do the hula for two or three minutes. She grabbed her walker, turned around, sat back on the sofa, turned to my wife and said, ‘That’s how you do it.’
“I will always love my mother. I will cherish how she and dad raised their children. They’ve given us such a great example of how a couple should relate.
“Let me finish by saying that my mother, Rosalynn Carter, was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. And pretty to look at, too.
More Rosalynn Carter coverage
Rosalynn Carter motorcade route set: Where, when the public can view in Atlanta and Plains
This song embodies the love of Rosalynn & Jimmy Carter, former president’s grandson says
Rosalynn Carter memorial service in Atlanta: Here are guests expected to attend
Why are flags at half-staff today? Honoring Rosalynn Carter nationwide
Will Jimmy Carter attend Rosalynn Carter memorial service Tuesday in Atlanta? Here’s the latest
A look back at when Rosalynn & Jimmy Carter attended Georgia football’s 1981 Sugar Bowl win
President Joe Biden to travel to Atlanta for Rosalynn Carter funeral service
Where will Rosalynn Carter be buried? Details of the former first lady’s interment
Have a special memory of Rosalynn Carter? Here’s how to send an official tribute