Many described him as one of the greatest leaders and servants of our time as they paused to reflect on his many contributions to the world.
"His passing is a passing of the torch to my generation and the generations to come to continue this global freedom struggle to liberate others," said N.C. Central University Student Body President Stefan Weathers.
The South African president's global influence was of particular inspiration to Ken Broun. The retired UNC law professor turned author, wrote about Mandela after traveling to the country in the 1980s to train black lawyers about advocacy.
"I have never met anyone who knew Mandela who was not just in awe of him as a person," said Broun.
Broun interviewed countless lawyers during and after apartheid. Many of them worked with Mandela during his fight for freedom and his time in prison.
"One of the amazing things about him was his desire to see all South Africans regardless of race achieve harmony, and his willingness to compromise," said Broun.
Although Mandela's poor health in the years that followed kept Broun from interviewing him personally, Mandela wrote the preface to one of Broun's books.
Broun says he will always cherish the man who became a living symbol of freedom and the strength of the human spirit in South Africa and beyond.
"His entire post-prison life was devoted to the reconciliation of the country, and the people of the world need to take a lesson from him on that," said Broun.
Meanwhile, leaders from across North Carolina reacted with sorrow Thursday at the news of the death of the South African civil rights icon.
Congressman G. K. Butterfield:
"Today, I join hundreds of millions of people worldwide in mourning the extraordinary life and legacy of anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and first Black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Words alone cannot adequately praise his historic achievements or fully express my sympathy in learning of his passing. Mandela was an icon of the global community. He epitomized leadership, humanitarianism, and activism. Since first learning of Mandela as a young man, I have deeply admired his courage and vision to end racism and inequality through racial reconciliation. In many ways, Mandela inspired my life and career. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and the millions of South Africans and global citizens whose lives he influenced. Unequivocally, there will never be another quite like Nelson Mandela."
U.S. Senator Richard Burr:
"Nelson Mandela's compassion and humility in the face of overwhelming adversity remains an inspiration. The people of South Africa will forever be in debt for his role in ending apartheid, and the rest of the world inspired by his leading a divided nation into a new, prosperous era. Today, we all mourn his passing, but take comfort in the enduring lessons of his life that will live forever."
Governor Pat McCrory:
"The world has lost a champion for the cause of freedom. President Mandela's strength in leading South Africa out of apartheid was only exceeded by his personal grace and dignity. Ann and I join people around the world in extending our thoughts and prayers to the family of President Nelson Mandela and the people of his nation."
North Carolina NAACP:
"Today the North Carolina NAACP, the Forward Together Moral movement and the Historic Thousands on Jones St Peoples' Coalition joined the world in mourning the death and celebrating the life of President Nelson Mandela. He was the model of steadfast commitment to justice, a stalwart devotee of loving your oppressor, and possessed an unwavering determination to the principles of human dignity, unity, and fundamental social change.
"He was committed to die for the noble principles of equality, justice, and truth which is why his life resurrected South Africa from the despairing depths of apartheid and also provided a new birth of freedom throughout the entire world. His legacy continues to inspire all of us even today.
"Now President Mandela, who led the fight for freedom in South Africa and showed all of us the true meaning of liberty and justice for all, is himself free and resting in the bosom of eternity. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty after a life of untiring service and sacrifice, he is now free at last to rest from his labors."
NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White:
"Today, the world lost a hero and iconic human rights leader in the passing of Nelson Mandela. His valiant fight for justice not only impacts the people of South Africa, but humankind. Future generations will celebrate a man whose life began humbly and later rose to become a great anti-apartheid crusader and president of South Africa. The North Carolina Central University community has the entire Mandela family, as well as the nation of South Africa, in our thoughts and prayers."