For Webbs, Meeting Nelson Mandela Was ‘Very Special’

Former South African President Nelson Mandela died on Dec. 5. The following story was published in June when friends and family were saying their final goodbyes to the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon at a hospital in Pretoria. His health was deteriorating at the time as he battled a lung infection.

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife Wilma had a remarkable opportunity to spend time with Mandela and talked with CBS4’s Jodi Brooks about the experience.

DENVER (CBS4) – Successful people have role models or heroes in their life. To then meet them, and be in the same room with them is a dream come true.

That’s the story for Wellington and Wilma Webb.

Wellington Webb showed CBS4 this photo taken during his meeting with Nelson Mandela. Webb is seen at left. (credit: CBS)

Wellington Webb showed CBS4 this photo taken during his meeting with Nelson Mandela. Webb is seen at left. (credit: CBS)

President Nelson Mandela has lived a life of distinguished courage. He is admired for his brave acts and noble qualities.

“I was awed by him. And I’m normally not awed by anyone,” Webb said.

To speak of him is one thing, but to meet him? Few can say that.

“People speak softer around him out of respect. It was amazing to be in the same room with the man who suffered in prison for so many years.”

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb wrote in his autobiography about a trip to South Africa with President Bill Clinton in 1998. Mandela inspired Webb.

In 1985 Webb wrote columns as part of the Free Mandela Movement.

“I was active in protest movements, carrying picket signs, protesting in front of the South African embassy,” Webb said.

And for Wilma Webb there is much inspiration as well.

“We all as a world learned from him of how to govern, of how to lead,” she said.

Wilma served in the Colorado House when Mandela was nearing the end of his 27 years in prison in South Africa.

It was Webb who developed legislation to cut investment ties to South Africa to protect the state’s retirement fund.

“I was just doing a small part of what I thought was right for us here in Colorado,” Webb said.

For this couple, they have shared company with some of the most powerful in the world.

Wellington Webb (credit: CBS)

Wellington Webb (credit: CBS)

“On the international stage to be able to meet this iconic person that I’ve admired since I was a young man was very special in my life,” Webb said.

The Webbs said they expect some sort of memorial service in Denver will happen after Mandela passees away.

MORE FROM CBSNEWS.COM: Nelson Mandela’s family summoned to hospital; Gov’t says former leader “much better”


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