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Doug Wilder reflects on Mandela friendship

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder is mourning the death of President Nelson Mandela. The former South African President died Thursday at the age of 95.

Governor Wilder met President Mandela on multiple occasions and considered him a friend.

"He was a moral force," said Governor Wilder. "The likes of which have not been seen."

Governor Wilder has fond memories of his time with Nelson Mandela.

"He was very mindful of the fact that I was the first African-American elected governor of a state in America," said Wilder. "He would say, what you have done means a lot to a lot of us."

Even members of the media are particularly moved by this moment in time.

"We have lost a giant." said Jeremy Lazarus who is VP of news for Richmond Free Press.

Lazarus recalls Mandela at the height of the apartheid movement.

"When you think of it," said Lazarus. "It is remarkable. We have people in this country who are going to jail, protesting, petitioning the Congress on behalf of somebody who was 5,000 or 6,000 miles away because of what he stands for."

Virginia would make an historic statement under Governor Wilder.

"We were the first state to say we will not invest in South Africa, period." said Wilder. "Until you change the rules of apartheid."

It was one of the many occasions the two trailblazers would shake hands.

"It meant a lot to him. He grabbed my hand. He had a big hand," recalls Wilder. "He grabbed my hand and said you just don't know what this means to me and our people."

Governor Wilder is now saying goodbye to a statesman and friend whose legacy is hard to overstate.

"But he might even be greater in death than he was in life," said Wilder. "Because love and kindness, as you know, survives even death."

Mandela's death is personal for Virginia delegate Delores McQuinn.

"This is huge. It's huge the fact that this man has passed on," said Delegate McQuinn whose son-in-law is a talented musician from Gabon in Central Africa.

"This was not just a President for South Africa," said McQuinn. "This is a President for all of Africa."

Delegate McQuinn is sponsoring a prayer vigil this Sunday with Mayor Dwight Jones. It will be at the Lumpkin's Jail Site off 15th and Franklin from 3 to 4 PM.

Mayor Dwight Jones released the following statement:

"Nelson Mandela and his legacy will be indelibly etched in the consciousness of our nation and the world. He has had a profound impact on millions and led a life that I'm in awe of."

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