Bob Brown’s long friendship with Nelson Mandela and the relationships he established with Mandela’s family will come full circle this week.
Brown, a longtime businessman and civic leader from High Point, is in South Africa for funeral ceremonies for Mandela, the former South African president who died last Thursday. Another person with ties to High Point and the Triad, Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th, also will take part in the services in South Africa as part of an official U.S. delegation.
Brown was among a select group of Americans who got to know Mandela 25 years ago during his long imprisonment in the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was the system that kept whites, who make up a minority of the nation’s population, in control of government and blacks subservient during most of the 20th century.
Apartheid evaporated after Mandela was released from prison 20 years ago and became the first black president in the nation’s history after South Africa’s first multiracial election.
Brown, who left on a flight to South Africa this past weekend, will take part in events that include today’s memorial service at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. President Barack Obama will attend the service, accompanied by former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and 26 U.S. congressional representatives.
The congressional delegation includes Watt, who met Mandela in the 1990s when a Congressional Black Caucus group traveled to South Africa, said a spokesman in Watt’s congressional office. Watt, who’s from Charlotte but represents a district covering parts of High Point, later served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2005-06.