Nelson Mandela, a beloved figure throughout the world who became South Africa’s first black president after serving a long prison term for his role as an anti-apartheid revolutionary, died Thursday at age 95, according to officials from that country.

Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson, who covered South Africa for the Wall Street Journal in 1986 and had numerous encounters with Mandela in the 1990s and beyond, shared his impressions of the iconic leader in a June column titled “Lessons from the ultimate public servant: Nelson Mandela.

Below is an excerpt from that article:

It’s a too-familiar story: Wayward politicians violate the public trust and find themselves behind bars.
But lately I’ve been thinking about a man whose service and leadership were partially forged in prison, long before he held elective office — Nelson Mandela, the ultimate public servant.
And as his long life nears its end — he is in critical condition at a Pretoria hospital — his leadership holds many lessons for those in U.S. federal service.
I feel a personal connection to Mandela, as do probably the thousands of people who have met him. I began covering South Africa for the Wall Street Journal in 1986, when the government was an oppressive, violent, white racist regime. I later had numerous encounters with Mandela, from the time he was released from prison in 1990 to his election and inauguration in 1994 and beyond.
I’ve written about many public officials over the years. None can stand up to Mandela. What stands out most about him is his sense of principle.

Also: The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan talks about the life and legacy of  President Nelson Mandela: