Arizona man says meeting with Mandela changed his life forever - FOX 35 News Orlando

Arizona man says meeting with Mandela changed his life forever

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Norris Baker Norris Baker

A lot of people are reacting to the death of Nelson Mandela, including those who had the honor of meeting him.

A valley man who traveled to South Africa in the early 1990s says his encounter with Mandela changed his life forever.

Norris Baker remembers his meeting with Mandela vividly.  It happened just days after Mandela was released from a South African prison in 1990 -- and it happened completely by accident at a conference where Mandela was speaking.

"At that time, I heard Nelson Mandela's voice -- a very distinct voice that he has -- and I was just totally startled," said Baker.

Baker says he wasn't invited to the conference, but he wasn't going to miss the chance to hear Mandela speak.

"I pulled out my American passport and showed it to the two guards and said I'm an American and I' late for the meeting and they looked at me and said go on in."

So Baker took his seat and that's when he realized he was only feet - from Mr. Mandela.

"When the lights came on, I was sitting 10 feet from Mr. Mandela," he said.

Baker knew he couldn't pass the opportunity up to try and get Mandela's autograph.

"So I pulled out my passport again and I turned to the security guard and I said could you get an autograph of Mr. Mandela for me?"

Not only did Mandela sign Baker's passport, but immediately waived him over.

"I got up and went over and I was able to talk to him for about five minutes," he said.

Baker says those five minutes changed his life forever.

"And and I saw the poverty and people struggling to live and I had a lot of money that I lost and I was feeling sorry for myself and depressed and then when I met Mandela.. everything just changed and for the last 24 years, I've been a different person."

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