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Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, one of the world's greatest and most admired political figures, died Thursday at his Johannesburg-area home.

Current President Jacob Zuma said of the icon, "We've lost our greatest son."

Friend and family had gathered at Mandela's bedside earlier this week. A daughter had said the 95-year-old was on his deathbed a few days ago.

The anti-apartheid leader had been in failing health off and on in recent years. The first black president of South Africa, who spent nearly 30 years in prison because of his political activism, had suffered through kidney and lung issues, pneumonia and prostate cancer.

Mandela devoted himself to the fight against apartheid leading the African National Congress. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison in 1964. His incarceration led to fame as a political prisoner.

He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

President Barack Obama said, "We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with" and that Mandela was proof to "never discount the difference one person can make."

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918, the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, one of the future "Bantustans," independent republics set up by the apartheid regime to cement the separation of whites and blacks.

He is survived by his third wife Graca Machel; his daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela, who became a well-known political crusader in her own right.

Associated Press contributed to this article.

KTAR.com,

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