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      Former South African President Nelson Mandela dies at 95

      Nelson Mandela, the 95-year-old former South African president who closed the final chapter in South Africa's struggle to cast off white racist rule, has died. As South Africa's first black president, the ex-boxer, lawyer and prisoner No. 46664 paved the way to racial reconciliation with well-chosen gestures of forgiveness.

      Mandela was the leader of a rebellion against South Africa's white apartheid government and became the leader of national unity. Mandela's decades long rebellion transformed him from a convicted traitor into a freedom fighter and international hero

      M andela was born into a affluent family. H e supported non-violence to bring about change. H e became a lawyer and opened the first S outh A frican law firm to defend blacks who were forced from their land. In 1 960 Ma ndela turned militant when 69 black protestors were massacred.

      M andela lived up to his tribal name, trouble-maker , repeatedly challenging authority. H e was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison on S outh A frica's infamous R obben I sland. Even though he was cut off from the outside world his message and his movement endured. His wife, W innie, became his unofficial ambassador.

      M andela became S outh A frica's first black president after spending 27 years in jail. He crafted a new constitution and preached reconciliation, never speaking of retribution.

      M andela became a larger than life figure with rock star status. Celebrities, and world leaders came calling.

      He won the nobel peace prize and traveled the world, repairing S outh A frica's image and promoting tolerance. M andela and his wife W innie divorced in 1996 and he later remarried. Age eventually slowed him down and he retired from public life but continued to welcome dignitaries from around the world to his home. In June he was rushed to the hospital with a lung infection and stayed for three months. Family members say he fought to stay alive. He eventually went home but remained in critical condition.