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Desmond Tutu, Anti-Apartheid Human Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 90

South African Archbishop and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu poses as he arrives for a photocall for the documentary "Children of the Light" as part of the 54st Monte-Carlo Television Festival on June 8, 2014 in Monaco.
South African Archbishop and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu poses as he arrives for a photocall for the documentary "Children of the Light" as part of the 54st Monte-Carlo Television Festival on June 8, 2014 in Monaco.

Valery Hache/AFP via Getty

Human rights activist and anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu has died. He was 90.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation confirmed the South African civil rights icon's death on Sunday, noting the Nobel Peace Prize winner passed away in Cape Town.

"Tutu was a living embodiment of faith in action, speaking boldly against racism, injustice, corruption, and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing, especially when it impacted the most vulnerable and voiceless in society," his foundation wrote.

"Officially 'retiring' from public life on his 79th birthday, Tutu continued to speak out on a range of ethical and moral issues: illegal arms deals, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, respect for the rule of law, HIV/Aids, Tibet, China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and LGBTQI+ rights," the notice continued. "He also vociferously campaigned for gentler stewardship of the Earth, and against the coming ravages of climate change, a very real example of how human survival rests on our ubuntu-spirited ability to cooperate and work together."

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Tutu was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 after being nominated thrice prior in '81, '82, and '83 for his non-violent tactics in dismantling apartheid. South Africa eventually held its first democratic, non-racial elections in 1994.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of the Republic of South Africa, mourned Tutu's death on Twitter on Sunday.

"The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation's farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa," he wrote.

"Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead. We pray that Archbishop Tutu's soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation," Ramaphosa continued.

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Born in the former province of Transvaal in 1931, Tutu served as Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 before becoming the Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1994. He was also a famed author, with more than a dozen published works, including The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution.

Tutu is survived by wife Nomalizo Leah Tutu and four children, Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, and Mpho Tutu van Furth and their families.