Nelson Mandela, who battled apartheid in South Africa before becoming its first democratic leader, died at his home in South Africa after several months of ongoing health problems. He was 95.
Speaking from the White House Thursday, President Barack Obama said the former South African president "no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages." Obama ordered U.S. flags lowered to half-staff until sunset on Monday.
One of the nation's first black lawyers, he joined the African National Congress in 1952 and devoted his life to peacefully ending apartheid.
But in 1960, after 69 peaceful black protesters were killed by white South African police in the infamous Sharpeville massacre, Mandela shifted to believe the only recourse was violence.
"There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people," Mandela said at the time.
Mandela formed a military wing of the ANC, and the man once consumed with guilt for shooting a bird out of a tree became a fully armed freedom fighter. CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan later covered the movement."Nelson Mandela was absolutely committed to some kind of peaceful change," Logan said. "But he was smart. He saw that wasn't going to happen."
He took his fight to the streets and lived on the run. But in 1962 he was captured, convicted and sentenced two years later to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy.
Robben Island, the Alcatraz of South Africa, became Mandela's personal hell, where authorities were bent on breaking his spirit.
Though he was sealed off, the armed struggle continued, with Mandela's message as its guide and his wife Winnie carrying the torch.
On Feb. 11, 1990 -- after 27 years -- 71-year-old Nelson Mandela walked free. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon was there.
"He didn't walk out with his shoulders like, 'Hey, you see, I did it,'" said author Maya Angelou, who knew Mandela since 1960. "Never that, never."
"He walked out with the grace that was natural to him," Angelou said.
The South African religious and anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu said prison made the man.
"A fairly robust and aggressive young militant became a generous, understanding person," Tutu said.
In 1993, Mandela and the South African president who freed him, F.W. De Klerk, shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
"I cherish the idea of a new South Africa where all South Africans are equal," Mandela said, and "the time for the healing of the wounds has come."
President Mandela worked hard to heal those wounds. Choosing to serve only one five-year term, he introduced free health care for children and stepped up government investment in housing, education, jobs and infrastructure.
Nelson Mandela personified struggle: A political prisoner who became a president, a towering leader who, Tutu once said, emerged from nearly a lifetime of oppression to save his homeland.
"He could so very easily have led our country down the road of retribution and revenge and we would have been up a creek," Tutu said.
"Mandela represents the best any of us can hope for," said Angelou. "He was a great man. … And I'm grateful. The world is better for having him."