F. W. de Klerk Biography

F. W. de Klerk, the 7th state president of South Africa, played a crucial role in ending the apartheid policy alongside Nelson Mandela. Despite his father’s involvement in the origin of racial segregation, de Klerk became a prominent proponent of the anti-apartheid movement. Initially supporting the apartheid system, his perspective shifted after witnessing the racial violence in the country. His efforts were recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, although he faced controversies, including criticism for an alleged extramarital affair.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Frederik Willem de Klerk
  • Died At Age: 85
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Elita Georgiades (m. 1998), Marike de Klerk (m. 1959–1998)
    • Father: Jan de Klerk
    • Mother: Hendrina Cornelia Coetzers
    • Siblings: Willem de Klerk
    • Children: Jan de Klerk, Susan de Klerk, Willem de Klerk
  • Born Country: South Africa
  • Political Leaders
  • South African Men
  • Died on: November 11, 2021
  • Notable Alumni: Potchefstroom University For Christian Higher Education
  • City: Johannesburg, South Africa
  • More Facts
  • Education: Potchefstroom University For Christian Higher Education

Childhood & Early Life

Frederik Willem de Klerk was born on March 18, 1936, in the Mayfair suburb of Johannesburg, to South African politician Johannes “Jan” de Klerk and Hendrina Cornelia Coetzer. He grew up with his brother, Willem de Klerk, who is 8 years older than him.

After changing seven schools throughout South Africa, de Klerk joined the ‘Monument High School,’ a boarding school in Krugersdorp, and graduated in 1953.

In 1958, he received bachelor degrees in both arts and law from the ‘Potchefstroom University.’ While there, de Klerk served as the student newspaper editor, the vice-chair of the student council, a national executive council member of the ‘Afrikaanse Studentebond,’ and an elite member of ‘Broederbond.’ He also played tennis and hockey.

Legal Career

F. W. de Klerk worked as an articled clerk at the law firms ‘Pelser’ in Klerksdorp and ‘Mac-Robert’ in Pretoria. In 1962, he established his own firm in Vereeniging, Transvaal.

He simultaneously served as the national chairman of the ‘Junior Rapportryers’ for 2 years and chaired the ‘Law Society of Vaal Triangle.’ He was also a council member of the local technikon, his church, and the local school board.

In 1972, de Klerk accepted the position of the law faculty chairman at the ‘Potchefstroom University.’

Political Career

The ‘National Party’ nominated F. W. de Klerk as the ‘House of Assembly’ candidate from Vereeniging, and he won the election in November 1972. He earned prominence for his debating skills.

F. W. de Klerk subsequently became the information officer of the ‘Transvaal National Party’ and contributed to the establishment of a new ‘National Party’ youth movement.

During that period, he was associated with several party parliamentary study groups and traveled to Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

By late 1976, he realized that the U.S. society was heavily plagued by racism. In fact, racism was more prominent in the U.S. than in South Africa. This had a profound impact on de Klerk. He had previously served in high positions in two select committees, working for the rights of non-white communities.

In 1975, Prime Minister John Vorster nominated de Klerk for a promotion to the position of deputy minister. Vorster had always favored him and believed him to be a leader of the nation. Unfortunately, the promotion ultimately went to Andries Treurnicht of the ‘National Party.’

In April 1978, as the minister of social welfare and pensions, de Klerk freed the sporting control bodies from the government’s jurisdiction and made them autonomous. While serving as the minister of post and telecommunications, he helped the sports bodies get their electricity contracts.

He also served as the minister of mining and legalized the ‘Atomic Energy Corporation’ and the ‘Electricity Supply Commission’ (ESCOM). He revoked the ‘Mixed Marriages Act’ as the minister of the interior.

Honors & Awards

F. W. de Klerk held several honorary positions in organizations such as the ‘University Philosophical Society’ of ‘Trinity College,’ Dublin (honorary patron) and the ‘Prague Society for International Cooperation’ (honorary chairman).

The ‘College Historical Society’ of ‘Trinity College’ honored him with the ‘Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse.’

De Klerk was on the advisory board of the ‘Global Panel Foundation.’

Personal Life & Death

F. W. de Klerk was married to former ‘National Party’ member Marike Willemse from 1959 until their divorce in 1996. They had first met when de Klerk was still a university student.

The divorce followed after Willemse found out about de Klerk’s affair with Elita Georgiades, who was then married to Greek shipping mogul Tony Georgiades. Apparently, Georgiades was one of the financers of the ‘National Party.’

After his scandalized divorce, de Klerk got married to Elita in 1999.

F. W. de Klerk died from complications of mesothelioma on November 11, 2021, in his sleep at his home in Cape Town. He was 85.

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