. Human being
President of the ANC (July 1991 - December 1997) and first black president of South Africa (May 1994 - June 1999).
From an early age he was groomed to be a Thembu tribal chief's councillor like his father. However as he matured, he has become ever more inclusive as to the people he serves - In spite of prejudice between Xhosa, Zulu and other tribes, he worked as a lawyer and activist in Johannesburg for all the black people of South Africa, leader of the nation, and now as an elder statesman.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mveso, a tiny village on the banks of the Mbashe river in the district of Umtata, the capital of the Transkei ... 800 miles east of Cape Town, 550 miles south of Johannesburg. He is of the Madiba clan of the Thembu people of the Xhosa nation.
Africans of my generation - and even today - generally have both a Western and and African name. As is the custom, on his first day of schooling, at age seven, Rolihlahla was given the name of Nelson by the teacher. No one knowns why this robust name was chosen for him.
As is Xhosa tradition, he was initiated as a man and circumcised at age 16.
As a young man, his favourite sport was boxing. He started to study at Fort Hare university, but had to leave when he organised a boycott. In Johannesburg he finished his BA degree via correspondence from UNISA. He then studied law at at University of the Witwatersrand.
He joined the African National Congress in 1942, and was a contemporary of Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
In 1961 he turned to armed struggle against the Apartheid state, and became head of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe or MK, meaning "Spear of the Nation".
He was imprisoned for treason in 1964 at the Rivonia treason trial. He was released in 1990.
He was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Leader of the African National Congress. Before that he spent over 20 years as a political prisoner, most of it on Robben Island. His autobiography is Long Walk to Freedom.
He is regarded as one of the greatest men of the 20th century, though many consider the larger part of his greatness to be the result of him being the central icon of a larger movement, not as a result of his intrinsic greatness.
Either way he is definitely a resolute, wise and compassionate person.
See also ANC, and Thabo Mbeki, his successor as president of South Africa (1999 onwards) and leader of the ANC.
Quotes are from Long walk to freedom.
Some facts from wikipedia.