Rhode Island man recalls meeting Nelson Mandela - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather


Rhode Island man recalls meeting Nelson Mandela

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by ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter


Well known Rhode Island historian Ray Rickman spent the morning reading about the life and death of Nelson Mandela.

The two men talked when Mandela visited Boston in 1990.

It was a meeting that almost never happened.

"And we get to the door and the Secret Service says, 'You are not a Kennedy!'" said Ray Rickman as he laughed.

At that point Rickman says former First Lady Jackie Kennedy intervened with the Secret Service.

"She comes past them, puts her arm out; tells me to put my arm through her arm; walks up to them and says, 'Move!' I'll never forget it, and they both moved. And in I went," said Rickman.

The event was at Boston's JFK Library, Rickman is a long time confidant of the Kennedy family.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "The friendship between Patrick Kennedy and Ray Rickman goes back to their days in the Rhode Island General Assembly."

Rickman is in the red tie at the top of the photo. Patrick Kennedy is to the left.

"Later my mother calls and said, 'I saw you with Nelson Mandela on national television!'" said Rickman.

Just before the picture Rickman and Mandela had spoken privately for about five minutes.

"I just remember I did the talking. And I kept telling myself, 'Shut up! You are in the presence of one of the greatest human beings ever born. Get him to tell you something.' But I couldn't stop talking. I was just like (laughs)... it was amazing."

"...and he hugged me. And I can remember I just like melted," Rickman said.

Rickman called Mandela a giant in the human and civil rights movements, who changed the world forever.

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