Nelson Mandela in Chicago

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Prominent Chicagoans recall the late South African leader. Lauren Jiggetts reports. (Published Thursday, Dec 5, 2013)

    Late South African leader Nelson Mandela made a triumphant visit to Chicago in 1993, just two years after he was released from prison.

    The visit came a few days after Mandela and South African President F. W. de Klerk received the Liberty Medal from President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia.

    Even though DeKlerk and Mandela stood on the same stage, there was tension between the two leaders, and questions about why Mandela stood next to his enemy followed him when he reached Chicago a few days later.

    But Mandela also met with Chicago labor leaders, and thanked them for their support, which came decades before the anti-apartheid movement was popular in America.

    "You're at the pillar of the liberation struggle throughout the world," Mandela said at a labor rally.

    Mayor Richard Daley gave Mandela the key to the city.

    Then-NBC 5 reporter Warner Saunders interviewed Mandela for the second time during his Chicago visit. Two years earlier, Saunders had traveled to South Africa and met with Mandela after he was released from prison.

    Saunders spoke with NBC 5 Thursday about his memories of the late South African leader, calling it the "greatest experience I've ever had in my life."