ATLANTA – The young midshipman needed a date one evening while he was home from the U.S. Naval Academy, so his younger sister paired him with a family friend who already had a crush.
Nearly eight decades later, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are still together in the same tiny town where they were born, grew up and had that first outing. In between, they've traveled the world as Naval officer and military spouse, American president and first lady, and finally as human rights and public health ambassadors.
“It's a full partnership,” the 39th president told The Associated Press during a joint interview ahead of the couple's 75th wedding anniversary Wednesday.
It will be another milestone for the longest-married presidential couple in American history. At 96, Carter also is the longest-lived of the 45 men who've served as chief executive.
Yet even having reached that pinnacle, Carter has said often since leaving the Oval Office in 1981 that the most important decision he ever made wasn't as head of state, commander in chief or even executive officer of a nuclear submarine in the early years of the Cold War.
Rather, it was falling for Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in 1945 and marrying her the following summer. “My biggest secret is to marry the right person if you want to have a long-lasting marriage,” Carter said.
The nonagenarians – she's 93 – offered a few other tips for an enduring bond.
“Every day there needs to be reconciliation and communication between the two spouses,” the former president said, explaining that he and Rosalynn, both devout Christians, read the Bible together aloud each night – something they've done for years, even when separated by their travels. “We don't go to sleep with some remaining differences between us,” he said.