State President, South Africa, and Nobel Laureate
Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on March 18, 1936. He is the son of Senator Jan de Klerk, a leading politician, who became 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. In 1969, he married Marike Willemse, with whom he has two sons and a daughter. 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 member for Vereeniging at the time.
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 and 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 December 1, 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 in Transvaal, he was not known to advocate reform. In February 1989, de Klerk was elected leader of the National Party and in September 1989 he was elected State President.
In his first speech after assuming the party leadership he called for a nonracist South Africa and for negotiations about the country’s future. He lifted the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela. He brought apartheid to an end and opened the way for the drafting of a new constitution for the country based on the principle of one person, one vote.