Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Anti-Apartheid Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dead at 90
Tutu helped the end the system of Apartheid, allowing for democracy to emerge in his country.
One of the leading activists in South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movement, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has died at 90 years old.
A statement on behalf of the Tutu family said he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centere in Cape Town, but the statement did not mention a cause of death. Tutu had been ill for years.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner died early Sunday. In a statement, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke highly of Tutu.
"A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid and oppressed and downtrodden people all over the world," Ramaphosa wrote while expressing his condolences to the late leader's family.
Tutu was a world-renowned Anglican cleric whose staunch opposition of Apartheid in his country helped push for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and that of other political prisoners, as well as lead to the eradication of the racist system.
Nicknamed “The Arch” by U2 singer Bono, Tutu helped the end the system of Apartheid, allowing for democracy to emerge in his country.
Born in 1931 in the small town of Klerksdorp, he carved out a career in education before turning to theology just four years after graduating college in 1954.
Tutu enrolled in St. Peter's Theological College in Johannesburg in 1958. Two years later, he became a deacon and was ordained a priest in 1961.
In 1962, he left South Africa for the first time to study theology at London’s King’s College. He returned to his homeland four years later.
He would later become an avid traveler, living in such countries as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Italy, where he would serve as a lecturer. He moved to London in 1972, where he was appointed the associate director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches in Kent.
During his time traveling and preaching the word of God, his international profile began to rise.
In 1975, he moved back to South Africa, where he became the first Black person to be appointed as Anglican dean of Johannesburg.
Tutu was later appointed general secretary of his country's Council of Churches by the white Apartheid government in 1978. He used his platform to speak up for the voiceless people of his land.
A year later, he was appointed Bishop of Johannesburg, and in 1986, he became the first Black person to hold the highest position in the South African Anglican Church when he was chosen as Archbishop of Cape Town.
His outspoken words and actions, along with those of other freedom fighters, helped secure the 1989 release of Nelson Mandela and other members of the African National Congress who were held as political prisoners for nearly 30 years.
After Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected leader, he appointed Tutu to help chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was tasked with discovering and revealing the painful wrongdoing of the government and the people who endured brutality.
The painful testimonies that lasted from April 1996 to June 1998 were televised and captured the world’s attention as to what had occurred in the country between 1948 and 1994 between white and Black people. Amnesty was awarded to those who admitted to committing a crime. The commission was assembled for all South Africans to address what occurred during the dark Apartheid era in an effort to learn from it, never repeat it, and push forward together.
Tutu wrote several books, including 1999’s “No Future Without Forgiveness,” 2008’s “God's Dream” and 2016’s “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World,” which he co-authored with the Dalai Lama.
In the mid-2000s, the celebrated human rights activist returned to the spotlight with Mandela to address the alarming AIDS epidemic that was spreading across Africa. During that time, he also joined the One Campaign, an effort to eradicate poverty in third world countries.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world,” he once said.
He is survived by his wife, Nomalizo Leah, who he married in 1955, and their four children.
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