RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Virginia has a storied link to the late Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid.
Former Virginia governor Doug Wilder said Thursday that Mandela never forgot Virginia was the first state in the U.S. to ban trade with South Africa during apartheid.
Wilder, who remembered the civil rights icon as a warm human being and friend, met Mandela on several occasions over the past 25 years.
Their first meeting took place in the early 1990s at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.
Wilder told CBS 6 News’ Greg McQuade that the world had lost a man who stood for so much.
“He was an icon -- but a living icon not to be idolized for what had been, but what is," said Mandela. "And he set such a moral tone, moral stance for so many."
Wilder said during all of their meetings, he never once heard Mandela complain.
"We lost what is so vitally needed in the world today: a voice of reason, a voice of compassion, a voice for reaching out and understanding, a voice for listening – and not being the only voice," Wilder said. "We lost a person who would tolerate the other view, let you hear his, but would insist on the right of all people to live as human beings."
Wilder said he will always cherish his friendship with Mandela.