F.W. de Klerk was the seventh and last State President of apartheid-era South Africa, serving from September 1989 to May 1994. De Klerk was also leader of the National Party (which later became the New National Party) from February 1989 to September 1997. De Klerk is best known for engineering the end of apartheid, South Africa's racial segregation policy, and supporting the transformation of South Africa into a multi-racial democracy by entering into the negotiations that resulted in all citizens, including the country's black majority, having equal voting and other rights.
He won the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991, the Prince of Asturias Award in 1992 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with Nelson Mandela, for his role in the ending of apartheid. He was one of the Deputy Presidents of South Africa during the presidency of Nelson Mandela until 1996, the last white person to hold the position to date. In 1997, he retired from politics. De Klerk was born in Johannesburg and is the son of Senator Jan de Klerk, a leading politician, who became Minister in the South African government. His brother Willem is a liberal newspaperman and one of the founders of the Democratic Party. 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.