Nelson Mandela, a champion for justice has a fan club that stretches across the world.
Former Hartford Mayor Thirman L. Milner is at the top of that list.
“I found him to be a very humble, a very quiet type individual,” said Milner, who met Mandela in Washington decades ago and remembers it like yesterday. “Just to shake his hand, which I had a chance to do, and listen to him talk, it was a great honor that I will always remember.”
Milner’s talk with Mandela inspired him to further pursue politics. At the time he met Mandela, he was a state representative, but a just a few years after meeting the South African leader he ran for the mayor’s office. Milner became the first African American mayor of the City of Harford, paving the way for future African American leaders.
“To me, politics was just an extension of the civil rights movement,” said Milner.
Dollie McLean with The Artists Collective in Hartford has political ties in South Africa. Some of McLean’s family worked alongside Mandela politically, and others grew up with him. McLean’s in-law often shared stories of his time working alongside the South African leader.
“He talked about when they were younger men growing up and some of what they had to do in the movement,” said McLean.
Mandela once said, “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
Perhaps no one did that better than Mandela, himself.
“He’ll be greatly missed and admired for what he’s done, not only to South Africa, but the world,” said Milner.