Nelson Mandela visited Los Angeles twice -- first as an activist just released from 27 years in a South African prison for his vocal opposition to apartheid, and later to raise money as a political candidate for his country's first open election.
Mandela, who was released from prison in February 1990, arrived in Los Angeles in June that year to throngs of adoring supporters, with more than 75,000 crowding the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a concert on his behalf and 1,000 people attending a $1 million fund-raising dinner June 30.
The events capped a day filled with speeches to cheering crowds in which the then 71-year-old deputy president of the African National Congress thanked Angelenos for supporting a ban on doing business with South African companies in protest of apartheid policies while warning that the battle was still raging.
Celebrities including Jane Fonda, Morgan Fairchild, Cecily Tyson and Gregory Peck met with the leader. Federal, state and local politicians clamored to shake his hand.
Three years later, Mandela touched down at Los Angeles International Airport on July 9 while violent protests continued in South Africa over the announcement of planned open elections.
He was met by Mayor Richard Riordan and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles
He attended a private screening of the movie "Bopha," which describes life in South Africa, with talk-show host Arsenio Hall and other celebrities.
Mandela met with local African-American leaders and visited First African Methodist Episcopal and First AME churches, asking for political donations and pledging to bring South Africa from apartheid to democracy.
Former City Councilwoman Rita Walters recalled meeting Mandela at the dinner in 1990.
"He was such a gentle soul and after all he had been through was not angry," Walters said. "I remember a quote where he said you could hate apartheid, but not the people. His philosophy on life was getting along with people. After all he had been through, he could still say he loved his neighbor."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky remembered meeting and hearing Mandela speak at the Coliseum.
"He was a larger than life figure, a beacon of strength, principle and character," Yaroslavsky said. "I still remember the day I met him and how moved I was when I had the opportunity to shake his hand.
"All of us who value freedom and human dignity have lost a giant of the human race." ___