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Locals Mourn The Loss Of Nelson Mandela

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South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela waves to the press as he arrives at the Elysee Palace, 07 June 1990. (Photo by: MICHEL CLEMENT,DANIEL JANIN/AFP/Getty Images)

South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela waves to the press as he arrives at the Elysee Palace, 07 June 1990. (Photo by: MICHEL CLEMENT,DANIEL JANIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The pain we’re seeing at the passing of Nelson Mandela extends to South Florida where possibly no one feels it more than Miami Attorney H.T. Smith.

Smith treasures a letter Mandela sent him when smith retired as president of the National Bar Association.

To him and other African-American leaders, Mandela was an inspiration.

“Nelson Mandela really galvanized us with his vision of a rainbow South Africa,” said Smith.

“He is an angel that was loaned to us for 95 years,” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a Miami-Dade School Board Member.

Mandela visited South Florida in 1990, sparking protests by Cuban-Americans.

They were angry at scenes like Mandela and Cuba’s Fidel Castro hugging and calling each other brothers in arms.

In Miami, Cuban-American politicians refused to welcome Mandela.

H.T. Smith, now a Florida International University law professor, led a boycott of Miami that ended with promises of economic opportunities for blacks.

Now that Mandela has passed the two sides are looking past their differences.

“In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, I forgive the Cuban-American politicians who snubbed him, who denigrated him and criticized him because that’s what Nelson Mandela would do, ” said Smith.

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