A symbol of freedom to the world has passed away.  Former South African President Nelson Mandela died Thursday of at the age of 95.

Over the course of his life, Mandela was a political activist, a prisoner and the first President of a post-apartheid South Africa.  He became a national and international hero while serving 27 years of a life sentence in prison for treason.  Respected worldwide as a courageous leader, Mandela was the first African to receive the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.

FOX's Rick Leventhal has more on the life of Nelson Mandela:

In 1990, Nelson Mandela emerged from a South African prison to a resounding victory.

(Mandela) "Africa!"

He had awakened the world to the treacheries of apartheid.  Throughout 27 years of confinement, he remained staunchly opposed to the system of racial segregation imposed by white-minority rule.  As a dignified leader of the African National Congress, Mandela became the best known of South Africa's anti-apartheid leaders.  He was a symbol of hope to black South Africans at a time when violence and oppression were the order of the day.

(Mandela) "Nothing which has happened in South Africa calls for a revision of the positions that this organization has taken in its struggle against apartheid.  We therefore strongly urge that there should be no relaxation of existing measures."

Mandela was immortalized by Americans, as well - 750,000 people turned out to greet him at a ticker-tape parade in New York City.  In 1986, his fight for sanctions against the South African government led Congress to make them law.

Nelson Mandela was born on the eastern cape of South Africa in 1918.  He renounced the chiefdom of the Thembu tribe in order to pursue a legal career and later, politics.  In 1958, he married a medical social worker named Winnie, his second wife.  In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping and assault.  The two separated and eventually were divorced in 1996.

Mandela continued to battle the odds for racial equality.  He leaves behind a legacy of hope for world unity.

Rick Leventhal, FOX News.

WATCH for more on Nelson Mandela:


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WATCH President Obama speak on the passing of Nelson Mandela:


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