Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95. People around the world are mourning the loss of the country's first black president.
To many, Mandela was a hero, a man of courage, conviction and vision. He was often called humble, charming, loyal and a man who cared about others.
"He seemed to have that special charismatic approach," said Herman Cohen, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa from 1989 to 1993. "He became the symbol in the fight against apartheid."
Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. As a young man he became active in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress, or ANC, in the 1940s.
The white-led government banned the ANC in 1960, but the group continued to operate secretly. Mandela became head of the group's new military wing, coordinating a sabotage campaign against South African military and government targets.
In 1962, he was arrested and put on trial for his actions and sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town. He spent 18 years there, refusing a government offer to release him if he would renounce the ANC's armed struggle. But he was freed in 1990 after South African President Frederik de Klerk legalized all political parties and discharged most political prisoners.
Shortly after his release, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress. And in 1994, when the ANC won South Africa's first all-race elections, he was inaugurated as the county's first black president at age 75.
"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another," he said.
President Mandela said he would stay for only one five-year term. Cohen says Mandela earned international respect for South Africa's national reconciliation.
"Mandela devoted himself mainly to rallying the Africans to this new era to work on economic development, having good education, also he was very much of a spokesman on the international scene." he said.
Nelson Mandela smiles for photographers at his home in Johannesburg September 22, 2005.
Nelson Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, salute well-wishers as he leaves Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.
This undated photograph shows Nelson Mandela and his former wife, Winnie.
South African State President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela prior to talks, Cape Town, May 2, 1990.
Nelson Mandela, is seen as he gives the black power salute to 120,000 ANC supporters in Soweto's Soccer City stadium, Feb. 13, 1990.
Then-African National Congress President Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in Galeshewe Stadium near Kimberley, South Africa, Feb. 25, 1994.
Nelson Mandela and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II ride in a carriage outside Buckingham Palace on the first day of a state visit to Britain, July 9, 1996.
President Nelson Mandela and Britain's Prince Charles shake hands alongside members of the Spice Girls, Nov. 1, 1997.
Former U.S President Bill Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela speak during a Gala night in Westminster Hall, London, July 2, 2003.
Oscar winning South African actress Charlize Theron weeps at her meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, March 11,2004.
Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, wave to the audience during a Live 8 concert in Johannesburg, July 2, 2005.
Nelson Mandela jokes with youngsters as they celebrate his 89th birthday at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Johannesburg, July 24, 2007.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, center, followed by his grandson Mandla Mandela, rear right, arrives at the ceremony in Mvezo, South Africa, April 16, 2007.
Nelson Mandela waves to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street, London, August 28, 2007.
Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives to attend the 2010 World Cup football final Netherlands vs. Spain on July 11, 2010 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela poses for a photograph after receiving a torch to celebrate the African National Congress' centenary in his home village Qunu, May 30, 2012.
In 1993, Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize with his once bitter enemy de Klerk for their contribution to the peace process in South Africa. After receiving the award, Mandela praised the South African people.
"All have created a society which recognizes that all people are born equal," he said.
During his presidency, Mandela was criticized for not confronting South Africa's AIDS epidemic. However, in his later years, he became a public advocate in the fight against AIDS.
"Together we can fight AIDS and ensure a more secure future for everyone," he said.
He also continued his work as an advocate for children’s rights.
In a country torn apart by years of racial conflict, Nelson Mandela is considered a remarkable leader - a man who turned South Africa away from violence and hatred into a country of greater peace and understanding.