"The world has lost a great leader and advocate for equality". Those are the words of Senator Tim Kaine who was just one of many politicians speaking out on the loss of Nelson Mandela.
Now, people from all over the world, including Charlottesville, are remembering the beloved statesman. University of Virginia professor John Mason wrapped up his last class of South African history just before hearing the news that Mandela passed away.
Mason met Mandela in the early '90s and says his presence was powerful.
"He had a psychological aura about him that, here's a man that had already accomplished so much in his life. Here's a man who had suffered in ways that most of us can hardly imagine and had come out of it with no bitterness and no hatred and in fact he had defeated hatred,” Mason said.
The revered statesman became a force in the 20th century fight for civil rights when he emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of its dark days of apartheid. He later became the nation's first black president.
Mason says Mandela is a person history is going to remember for a very long time. He says Mandela is both the symbol of struggle and the symbol of reconciliation of South Africa.
Others in Virginia are also sending their condolences. In a statement, Governor Bob McDonnell said, in part: "Nelson Mandela lived a life that broke down barriers, tore down walls, and lifted up a nation, a people, and a world.”
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe also spoke out, saying, "The world has lost a giant in the enduring fight for justice and human rights."
People are gathering in front of Mandela's home in Johannesburg Thursday night. Flags there will be flown at half-staff Friday as the country mourns the loss of its former president.
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