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In 1961, Nelson Mandela was a political activist who had already been arrested once for his work with the African National Congress. Born in 1918 to a chief of the small Thembu tribe, he was given the name Rolihlahla – "troublemaker" in the Xhosa language. A Methodist teacher renamed him Nelson.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

Nelson and Winnie Mandela in a rare moment together in the early 1960s.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Int'l. Defence & Aid Fund for Southern Africa

Protesters demonstrate in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug.16, 1962, demanding Mandela's release after his second arrest. His wife, Winnie, whom he had married in 1958, joined the protests. Mandela was sent to a penal colony off Cape Town, where he spent 13 years laboring in a quarry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Dennis Lee Royle / Associated Press

Mandela and other African National Congress activists were freed in 1990. On Feb. 11, Nelson and Winnie Mandela march through Paarl in the Western Cape with a cheering crowd.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Alexander Joe / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson and Winnie Mandela meet with Mayor Tom Bradley on a visit to Los Angeles on June 29, 1990.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Mayor Bradley gives Mandela the key to the city of Los Angeles during a ceremony at City Hall on June 29, 1990.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela waves to the media and guests after making a joint statement with President George H.W. Bush on the White House South Lawn on June 25, 1990.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Kevin Larkin / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela is congratulated by his wife, Winnie, in Durban, South Africa, after his unanimous 1991 election to succeed Oliver Tambo, right, as African National Congress president.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Agence France-Presse

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and Mayor Richard Riordan welcome Mandela back to Los Angeles on July 8, 1993.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Mandela attends a service at First United Methodist Church in Los Angeles in 1993.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Axel Koester / For The Times

Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1993 for their leadership of a negotiated transfer of power from South Africa's white minority to the black majority.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jon Eeg / Associated Press

Nelson Mandela listens to speakers at a campaign rally at Soweto Stadium before addressing the crowd himself on April 23, 1994, three days before national elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Walter Dhladhla / AFP/Getty Images

Mandela casts his ballot April 27, 1994, in Oshlange, South Africa, during the country's first democratic election. The historic moment marked the first time he — or any black person in the country — had been able to vote.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Walter Dhladhla / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela and regional African National Congress leader Allan Boesak, right, greet the crowd at a campaign rally on April 17, 1994, 10 days before South Africa's first all-race national elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Guy Tallim / AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela greet a cheering crowd in Cape Town on May 10, 1994.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nelson Mandela dances with Imilonji Kantu choir members at a victory celebration on May 2, 1994.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Mandela heads into parliament in Cape Town on May 9, 1994, shortly before the new majority officially voted to appoint him president.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nelson Mandela is sworn in to office as president by South African Chief Justice Michael Corbett in Pretoria on May 10, 1994.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

South African President Nelson Mandela addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Oct. 3, 1994.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jon Levy / AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Nelson Mandela waves to the crowd with his two deputy presidents -- Thabo Mbeki, left, and Frederik de Klerk -- after the inaugural sitting of South Africa's first all-race parliament on May 9,1994. Mandela was elected South Africa's first black head of state by the post-apartheid assembly.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Alexander Joe / AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat speaks with Mandela in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1994 during an African summit. Arafat was an observer at the summit.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: WAFA / Associated Press

President Nelson Mandela walks with Pope John Paul II after the pontiff's arrival at Johannesburg airport on Sept. 16, 1995. This was the pope's first official visit to South Africa.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Walter Dhladhla / AFP/Getty Images

On a visit to Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years behind bars, Mandela once again chips away at limestone in the quarry. Mandela led hundreds of former political prisoners back to the island on Feb. 10, 1995, saying he wanted to blend the memory of their hardship into the national psyche.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II pays a state visit to South Africa in 1995, the first by a ruling British monarch since 1947.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adil Bradow / Associated Press

South African President Nelson Mandela speaks before a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 23, 1995, in which he appealed to the U.N. to redefine its role in the world and reshape its structure.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Timothy Clary / AFP/Getty Images

President Mandela at his Pretoria residence in 1995 with Percy Yutar, who as a state prosecutor 31 years earlier sentenced Mandela to life in prison.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adil Bradlow / Associated Press

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan visits President Mandela at his Johannesburg residence in January 1996.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Agence France-Presse

Nelson Mandela attends an ANC rally in Durban, South Africa, prior to 1996 elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francesco Broli

President Mandela and Vice President Al Gore after a meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1997.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Sasa Kralj / Associated Press

President Mandela greets Britain's Princess Diana during her 1997 visit to Cape Town.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Sasa Kralj / Associated Press

In Libya, President Mandela visits with leader Moammar Kadafi in 1997.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Enric Marti / Associated Press

South African President Nelson Mandela takes the arm of British Prime Minister Tony Blair as they chat while strolling on the grounds of the Royal and Ancient St. Andrews Golf Course during a break in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on Oct. 26, 1997.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Johnny Eggitt / AFP/Getty Images

Presidents Mandela and Clinton look out from a cell on Robben Island in Cape Town's Table Bay in 1998. Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment under apartheid in this cell.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, left, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Clinton welcome President Mandela during a 1998 visit to Washington.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images

President Mandela with his Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro, during a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva in 1998.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Agence France-Presse

At Mandela's Pretoria residence in 1998, he and Graca Machel examine a birthday card for him from his former prison guard. Mandela and Machel were married later that day in Johannesburg.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adil Bradlow / Associated Press

Nelson Mandela shakes the hand of Pope John Paul II during a visit by Mandela to the Vatican on June 18, 1998.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paolo Cocco / AFP/Getty Images

President Nelson Mandela shows off his just-received honorary degree from Harvard University on Sept. 18, 1998.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Mottern / AFP/Getty Images

Mandela acknowledges a standing ovation after his final address as president to a joint session of Parliament in Cape Town in March 1999.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Agence France-Presse

Mandela rides in the back of a truck in the South African town of Brits during a pre-election rally near the end of his tenure as president in 1999.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Mandela, then the outgoing president, casts his ballot at a Johannesburg polling station during South Africa's 1999 election.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Peter Dejong / Associated Press

South African President Nelson Mandela and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki wave to well-wishers after Mandela's last major address to Parliament on Feb. 5, 1999.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Obed Zilwa / Associated Press

Nelson Mandela receives Michael Jackson for a visit on March 23, 1999.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anna Zieminski / AFP/Getty Images

Mandela, standing behind Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, joins a royal gathering at St. James' Palace in London on Oct. 31, 2002, to mark the centenary of the Order of Merit.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Kirsty Wigglesworth / AFP/Getty Images

Former President Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, join United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and President Thabo Mbeki on stage at the World Summit on Sustainable Development on Sept. 2, 2002.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Pedro Ugarte / AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz walks past a photograph of Nelson Mandela as a political prisoner on Robben Island during an official visit to the country on July 6, 2002.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Anna Zieminski / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela speaks at an AIDS conference on July 14, 2003.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jean Ayissi / AFP/Getty Images

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton shakes hands with former South African President Nelson Mandela during the inaugural Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Johannesburg Civic Centre, on July 19, 2003. The lecture coincided with Mandela's 85th birthday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rajesh Jantilal / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela holds the Jules Rimet World Cup at FIFA headquarters after South Africa won the right to host the 2010 World Cup finals, the first to be played in Africa, on May 15, 2004

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Franck Fife / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela celebrates his 89th birthday flanked by former President Jimmy Carter, right, and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, during the launching ceremony of the group known as the Elders -- a brain trust of elder statesmen -- on July 18, 2007.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Alexander Joe / AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela pauses during an early celebration of his 90th birthday in Johannesburg on March 5, 2008. Mandela would become a nonagenarian July 18.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Kim Ludbrook / European Pressphoto Agency

Lithographs by Nelson Mandela are displayed as part of an exhibition of his works at a Belgravia Gallery in London in July, 2008.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Sang Tan / Associated Press

Mandela celebrates his 91st birthday with his wife, Graca Machel, at their home in Houghton, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 18, 2009.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Debbie Yazbek / European Pressphoto Agency

Nelson Mandela, photographed in Johannesburg in 2010, smiles broadly as he holds a copy of his just-published book "Conversations with Myself," with a foreword written by President Barack Obama.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Debbie Yazbek / AFP/Getty Images

A group of schoolchildren participates in a program at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on the eve of Mandela Day on July 17, 2011.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP/Getty Images

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I was an 8-year-old boy growing up in Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was found guilty of treason in the winter of 1964, and escaping the gallows, was sentenced to life in prison.

As a privileged white child, I was unaware of the significance of what had happened and of the injustice the iron fist of apartheid wielded.

Nelson Mandela, together with his voice, his words and his image, vanished with his incarceration on Robben Island, an arid, inhospitable piece of land jutting out of Table Bay within sight of the city.

Mandela would spend 27 years of his life in prison. I spent just 22 of mine in the country.

In 1977, within days of becoming a college graduate, I left, leaving behind iniquitous repression and an uncertain future. I took with me memories of a great man — by then a national symbol of the struggle for equality — whom I would never meet.

Three decades have passed since I was last in South Africa, but I will always be grateful for the sacrifices Mandela made to dispel the cruelty of a country I once called home, forever giving it the brightest of futures.

— Jerome Adamstein

Obituary: Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon, dies

1 Comment

  1. December 9, 2013, 6:50 am

    A lovely memory, Jerome, of a great hero and model for all people in all times.
    Jean Walkden, Spring Lake, NC

    By: jejean

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