Jim Morris Statement on Nelson Mandela

December 6, 2013

The passing of human rights leader Nelson Mandela of South Africa certainly resonated around the world, including the Bankers Life Fieldhouse office of Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris.

In his office, there is a framed photo of Morris shaking hands with Mandela. As executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme from 2002-07 – a position Morris held before he returned to Indianapolis to lead PS&E – Morris twice accompanied U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on visits to Mandela in South Africa.

“I was honored to have two long visits with him,” Morris recalls. “He carried himself like a West Point cadet, ram-rod straight and tall. He was a great man … a positive man.”

Morris said his most memorable conversation with Mandela came the morning after Morris had visited the Robben Island prison cell in which Mandela was held captive for 27 years by South Africa’s apartheid government.

“I said to him, ‘Sir, I cannot comprehend how you aren’t the angriest, maddest man in the world’,” Morris said.

“He replied, ‘Jim, you know, it was never about being angry or getting even. It was only about fairness for my people.’

“He walked out of the room that day and he said with this beatific smile on his face, ‘I am so happy with my life. So very, very happy.’"