Remembrances are pouring in from state and local officials and Chicago civil rights leaders following the death of Nelson Mandela Thursday.
"Twenty years after he visited Chicago, his message of peace and hope continues to resonate with the people of this city, as it does for all people of goodwill, and that message will live on," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a Thursday statement. Mandela died close to 4 p.m. Chicago time in Johannesburg, South Africa at the age of 95.
Memories from many others, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Mayor Richard Daley, recall meeting Mandela during his 1993 visit to Chicago in the run-up to the historic 1994 election in South Africa where he became the country's first black president.
(See photos of Mandela's 1993 visit to Chicago below.)
While many mourned Mandela's death, his biographer, Northwestern professor Douglas Foster, called the statesman's passing emotional and sobering but not sad. As Foster explained to CBS Chicago:
“This is somebody who lived into his ninth decade. Somebody who began his life as a cow herd then traded that into a role as leader of a guerrilla movement, survived 27-years in prison as we all know, then became leader of a democratic South Africa then lived long enough to see partial achievement of that vision that he fought so hard for.”
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African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela during a labor rally on behalf of Mandela in Chicago, Wednesday, July 7, 1993. Mandela said that the latest wave of violence in South Africa was the work of those opposed to multiracial elections in that nation. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
African National Congress President Nelson Mandela, center, is joined in laughter by (left to right) Congressman Mel Reynolds and Bobby Rush, State Senate minority leader Emil Jones, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley during a welcoming ceremony Tuesday, July 6, 1993 in Chicago. Mandela is in Chicago for a two-day fundraising trip. (AP Photo/Marl Elias)
African National Congress president Nelson Mandela, center, is joined by Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and Leon Finney, Jr., at a fundraiser in Chicago, Tuesday, July 6, 1993. Officials say about $160,000 was raised to educate voters before next April's multiracial election in South Africa. (AP Photo/John Swart)
Jackie Bridges of Chicago waves a South African flag outside the headquarters of Operation PUSH in Chicago Tuesday, July 6, 1993, as African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela spoke inside. Mandela was in Chicago on a two-day mission to raise funds for his party to educate voters before a multiracial election in South Africa set for April 1994. (AP Photo/John Swart)
Mayor Daley called Mandela "without question one of the greatest men who ever lived," NBC Chicago reports. "The world has lost a hero to humanity," Daley said Thursday.
Daley presented Mandela with the key to the city during his two-day visit to Chicago in '93.
"One of the highlights of my life was being able to be at the forefront of organizing Mandela's visit to Chicago after his release from prison," Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said Thursday.
The Rev. Jackson and Mayor Emanuel shared personal stories on how Mandela touched their lives, too.
Jackson told CBS Chicago he would "never forget that moment" that he was on hand to greet Mandela after he was freed from his 27-year confinement in South Africa.
“Nelson Mandela becomes this huge transformative force because he did the unusual," Jackson said. "After 27 years in jail, one would expect retribution. He chose reconciliation, renewal and redemption. Unearned suffering has redemptive power that can even transform a nation.”
In his statement, Emanuel shared that he spent his honeymoon in South Africa shortly after Mandela's election. As he recalls:
"My wife Amy and I arrived in South Africa on our honeymoon in 1994 just a few months after Nelson Mandela took the oath and became President of what he called "a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world." I will never forget the sense of possibility and promise that he sparked in the people of South Africa, and as Amy and I were starting a new life together, we felt it was fitting to be in a country as it began a new life of its own."
Gov. Quinn said Mandela changed the world unlike few others in his lifetime.
The South African Consulate General will keep a public book of condolences open on Friday, Dec. 6 where it will remain available to the public from the 9th to the 13th between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The Consulate General of the Republic of South Africa is located at 200 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 600.