Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter weren't supposed to go on their first date.
On a Sunday night in 1945, Jimmy Carter, on a break from the U.S. Naval Academy and in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, was supposed to go out with another woman. But after she was busy at a family reunion, the future president sought out another date – and laid eyes on his future first lady.
“I wanted to have a date because I was getting ready to go back to Annapolis for another time of isolation,” Carter told Oprah Winfrey in an interview in 2015. “I was cruising around Plains and saw Rosalynn on the front steps of the Methodist church.”
The two went to a movie, and Carter told his mother the next morning that "she's the one I'm going to marry."
Less than a year after their first date, the future president proposed.
"She said no," Carter said in that 2015 interview. "From then until late May, she maintained 'No.' I kept trying, and finally, she said OK."
They were married July 7, 1946.
The former first lady died Sunday after being diagnosed with dementia earlier this year. She and Jimmy Carter were married for 77 years, the longest-married presidential couple.
Here's a look at how Carter has described his decadeslong marriage and beloved wife.
'The best thing I’ve ever had happen to me'
"I can't really quantify it all, describe it in words. But I knew that she was quiet. She was extremely intelligent. She was very timid, by the way, beautiful, and there was just something about her that was irresistible," Carter said in 2015 after being asked what he knew after his first date with Rosalynn Carter.
“It’s been the best thing I’ve ever had happen to me – marrying Rosalynn and living together for so long, growing to know each other more and more intimately every day in married life," he told The New York Times in 2021 their 75th wedding anniversary.
“I’ve been very happy,” he said. “And I love her more now than I did to begin with – which is saying a lot, because I loved her a lot.”
Rosalynn Carter, who was friends with Jimmy Carter's younger sister Ruth, recalled in a 2021 interview the time before they started their courtship.
"I spent a lot of time at (the Carters') house, but he was always off at school," said Rosalynn Carter, then 93. "He was so good to Ruth. He would write her letters, and she talked about him all the time. And she had his photograph on the wall in her bedroom. And I literally did fall in love with that photograph."
Jimmy Carter became president with his wife's help
When asked what he was "most proud of having accomplished as a couple," Carter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Having been elected president with Rosa's good help."
The former first lady said she loved campaigning and meeting Americans across the country, and she valued hearing directly about the challenges they faced.
“I love it. I love campaigning. I had the best time. I was in all the states in the United States. I campaigned solid every day the last time we ran,” she said in 2021.
He described their marriage as his proudest achievement.
"The best thing I ever did was marrying Rosalynn," Carter said in an interview at The Carter Center in 2015. "That's the pinnacle of my life."
Rosalynn Carter, for her part, said in 2021 that "everything with Jimmy Carter has been an adventure."
"We've been blessed to be able to travel the world, almost."
How Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter worked and stayed together
Carter and his wife spent decades side by side.
“We found out a long time ago that we needed to share everything. I gave her plenty of space," Carter told The Washington Post. "She does what she wants to, and I do what I want to. But then we searched for things that we could together.”
After leaving the White House, the two shared a love of humanitarian work. But they also focused on hobbies such as tennis, fly-fishing and more.
"I think we give each other space and we try to do things together. We're always looking for things we can do together, like birding and fly-fishing and just anything we can find to do together," Rosalynn Carter told PBS in 2021.
And the Carters have long embraced a central rule in their marriage: "We've had kind of a standing rule that we follow pretty meticulously – sometimes with great difficulty – that is not to go to sleep angry. We have a lot of arguments about our family, but we try to get over that argument before we go to sleep," Carter told Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates in 2017.
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter shared their faith
Carter also considered his wife his muse.
"She'd smile, and birds would feel that they no longer had to sing, or it may be I failed to hear their song," Carter wrote in a poem titled "Rosalynn" from his 1995 book "Always a Reckoning and Other Poems."
The Carters have long read passages from the Bible together in the evening, and the couple said they read Scripture when they were apart.
"When I'm overseas and Rose is at home, we know we're reading the same biblical text, and even though we're separated physically, it makes us think about the same Scripture and admonition from God, direction from God, before we go to sleep," Carter told ABC News in 2021.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn Carter: How they fell in love and lived