Nelson Mandela held a special place in the heart of our city

Herald Series: President Nelson Mandela at the Sheldonian Theatre in 1997 President Nelson Mandela at the Sheldonian Theatre in 1997

FORMER South African president Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, received numerous honours from the city of Oxford.

The Nobel Peace prize winner visited on two occasions, but was also regularly in the thoughts of people in the city.

Mandela visited the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in George Street in July 1997 to deliver a keynote speech on international relations.

He also came to Oxford University’s Said Business School on April 15, 2002. There he spoke of his respect for the institution when opening a new 300-seat lecture theatre named in his honour.

He received an honorary degree from Oxford University at Buckingham Palace in 1996 – a Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma.

Oxford University won a dispute with Cambridge University over who was to present their degree first. Oxford was chosen as it was the oldest university and officials had got their invitation in first.

He was given the freedom of the city in 1997, following an appeal from the Oxford Anti-Apartheid Group in 1994 to consider giving him the honour.

Oriel College decided to name part of its junior common room after Mandela in 1986.

However, the decision was not unanimous and his portrait had to be taken down when the college hosted out-of-term conferences.

In 1988, youngsters at Wood Farm School wished Nelson Mandela a happy 70th birthday.

The pupils, inspired by the Nelson Mandela pop concert at Wembley, made him a birthday card from self portraits.

On his release in 1990, jubilant anti-apartheid campaigners celebrated with a Champagne party outside Oxford Town Hall.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith joined city councillors and Oxford City Anti-Apartheid Group in rejoicing as Mr Mandela stepped to freedom.

In May 1990, Mandela sent a personal message of thanks for support he received from an Oxford church. SS Mary and John in Cowley Road made a collection on Palm Sunday to give to the Mandelas.

  • The UK joined the rest of the world in mourning the loss of the anti-apartheid hero as crowds gathered in London and elsewhere yesterday to remember the inspiring leader.

The Queen visited a plaque commemorating Mr Mandela's 1996 visit to Parliament after saying she was “deeply saddened” to learn of his death, and former Irish president Mary Robinson said the world felt like it had lost a family member.

In the US, President Barack Obama paid tribute to Mr Mandela saying he “took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice”.

The Spice Girls, who famously had an encounter with Nelson Mandela in which they claimed their "girl power" mantra put them on the same level as the statesman, spoke of their admiration for him. The meeting at Mr Mandela's residence in Pretoria made headlines around the world at the time.


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