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F W de Klerk was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 18 March 1936. He is the son of Senator Jan de Klerk, a leading politician, who became a minister in the South African government.. F W de Klerk graduated with a law degree from Potchefstroom University in 1958 and then practiced law in Vereeniging in the Transvaal. De Klerk was offered a professorship of administrative law at Potchefstroom in 1972 but he declined the post because he had been elected to parliament as National Party (NP) member for Vereeniging. In 1978, F W de Klerk was appointed Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and Social Welfare and Pensions by Prime Minister Vorster. Under Prime Minister P W Botha he held a succession of ministerial posts, including Posts and Telecommunications, Sports and Recreation (1978-1979), Mines, Energy and Environmental Planning (1979-1980), Mineral and Energy Affairs (1980-1982), Internal Affairs (1982-1985), and National Education and Planning (1984-1989). In 1985, he became chairman of the Minister's Council in the House of Assembly. On 1 December 1986 he became the leader of the House of Assembly. As Minister of National Education, F W de Klerk was a supporter of segregated universities, and as a leader of the National Party (NP) in Transvaal he was not known to advocate reform. In February 1989, De Klerk was elected leader of the National Party (NP) and in September 1989 he was elected State President. In his speech on 2nd February 1990 he called for a non-racist South Africa and for negotiations about the country's future. He lifted the ban on the ANC and SACP and released Nelson Mandela. De Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.
In April 1994 racially inclusive elections were held for the first time ever. Mandela was overwhelmingly elected and De Klerk served for two years as deputy president in Nelson Mandela's government. He announced his retirement from politics in August 1997 in order to dissociate the National Party (NP) from the policies he had once implemented.
In 2004 De Klerk announced that he was quitting the New National Party and seeking a new political home after it was announced that the NNP would merge with the ruling ANC.
He is best known for having brought apartheid to an end and opening the way for the drafting of a new constitution for the country based on the principle of one person, one vote. He was the last white president of South Africa serving to May 1994 and he led the National Party (NP) until 1997.
Source: From Les Prix Nobel 1993.