DENVER (CBS4) – Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 and his remarkable works will never be forgotten.
Mourners were honoring the freedom fighter outside his home in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday.
Mandela had been battling the effects of a recurring lung infection since last summer.
The list of Mandela’s accomplishments is long as he became a global symbol of sacrifice and forgiveness. His contributions to civil rights changed South Africa forever.
South Africa was a country ruled by a white minority that restricted blacks and those of mixed colors to living in townships, often in little more than shanties.
“I remember visiting areas with signs that read ‘whites only.’ Nelson Mandela changed all that,” CBS4’s Rick Sallinger said.
From a prisoner to president, Mandela walked to freedom in 1990. It was a walk that changed a country and a world. He joined what became the African National Congress back in the 1940s, fighting racial separation and injustice. After a slaughter of blacks Mandela became a militant.
He was jailed and sentenced to life. He spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island near Cape Town before his release.
President Barack Obama was among his admirers.
“I am one the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” Obama said. “My very first political action … the first thing that I ever did that involved an issue or policy or politics was a protest against apartheid.”
Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb met Mandela several times.
“For me Nelson Mandela was a symbolic hero, a moral conscience of the world,” Webb told CBS4. “Everyone identified with his commitment of freedom and justice.”
Webb wrote about Mandela in newspapers and in his autobiography.
Mandela became ill earlier this year and was hospitalized. Though released, he lingered. Now at age 95 South Africa is said to have has lost its greatest son.
When released from prison, instead of leading a rebellion against the those who ruled the country, he worked with them and with F.W. de Klerk, his white predecessor as president. They won the Nobel Peace Prize together.
Statement From Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
“With great sadness we mourn the loss of the great statesman and peacemaker Nelson Mandela. There can be no mistaking his impact on freedom in South Africa, but we must also recognize how he provided hope to all those seeking justice around the world. In his own words: “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” He exemplified that sentiment, never shrinking from the monumental tasks before him. Today and always he will stand as an icon to those who dream of mending the divisions that keep us apart.”