Maryland leaders said late Thursday Nelson Mandela was a courageous and inspirational figure who sacrificed for his belief in a non-violent path to freedom and democracy.
Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, died Thursday, South African President Jacob Zuma announced.
At 95, the former South African president battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations, according to news reports.
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said in his globally broadcast speech. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
Official Washington expressed sadness at Mandela’s death, with leaders issuing statements lauding his contributions to humankind.
Below are excerpts from statements by Maryland leaders:
Gov. Martin O’Malley: Nelson Mandela taught us that freedom is a concept that can't be contained within a prison cell or a continent. It's a power that animated the human spirit around the globe and redeemed the promise of purpose in each and every one of us.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD: State and federal lawmakers across the U.S. looked to Mandela as an inspiration when crafting laws that mandated divestment from South Africa’s cruel Apartheid regime. I had the privilege of serving as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates when we passed such legislation. Years later, our Nation is still striving to follow in Mandela’s footsteps and fully realize his dream of peace and equality for all of mankind.
Rep. John Delaney, D-MD: In 1994, Mandela addressed a joint session of Congress, stating, ‘I do firmly believe that the people of this country, who have done so much to write the history of the world, have the vision, the wisdom and the daring to strive so that what is good shines over the cities and the villages of that world, enveloping man and land.’ May we remember these words tonight and continue to strive to meet Madiba’s ideals of promoting democracy and justice.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD: He will be missed not only by the people of South Africa, with whom I join in mourning their beloved Madiba, but by Americans of every color and faith, including the many who worked tirelessly from afar to call attention to the injustice and brutality of apartheid, to protest his unjust imprisonment, and to boycott the evil system he struggled to overturn.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD: The world has lost one of the greatest and most influential leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries. Nelson Mandela’s humility, humanity, determination, and compassion inspired not only a nation, but the entire world. His life changed history.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD: As we celebrate the life of this incomparable man, we recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom and equality. We have come a long way. Old obstacles have been demolished. The promise of equality and freedom remain within our grasp. But we have a long way to go, and cannot walk the path alone. As Nelson Mandela knew, there is no easy walk to freedom. But he knew we could do it together.