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Focus on Mandela: An ATL photographer shares her candid photos | News

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Focus on Mandela: An ATL photographer shares her candid photos

ATLANTA -- When Nelson Mandela first stepped off the plane to Atlanta for the first time, Sue Ross was there.

"Harry Belafonte was travelling with Mandela, so he and his wife got off first."

When Mandela met with the King family for the first time, Sue Ross was there too.

"And then we started a whirlwind day because once we got into those limousines, it was like, shoom!"

And when Maynard Jackson rose his fist in solidarity with Mandela for the first time... well you know the rest.

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"Initially Winnie and Nelson Mandela raised their fist, and then gradually it spread across the room," she recalled, gazing over the pictures. "You saw Andy Young, Michael Lomax, Maynard and Valerie Jackson raising theirs, and finally even Coretta Scott King. I mean it was wonderful."

Ross was and still is the unofficial official photographer for the city of Atlanta.

"It was an electric atmosphere all over the city. Everyone wanted to see him."

And if a picture's worth a thousand words, then the two volumes of photographs she's thumbing through are the Library of Congress for Mandela's visits to Atlanta.

"It was something we never thought would happen," she said. "It was almost unimaginable to see this man stride out of prison and stride freely into this country. The man that was still branded as a terrorist by this country being greeted like a king. The king that he was."

She says she was struck by Mandela's easy smile and approachable manner.

"He was very down to earth. One of my friends had his little daughter with him, and he held her and took a picture with her. And that was a special moment for them."

Having studied Mandela's struggle from her days in college, Ross says finally meeting him only solidified his legend.

"I was able to see someone that was one of my heroes accomplish what we thought was impossible," she said with a dimpled smile. "And it inspires us to know that each one of us can make a difference."