INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Nearly 24 years later, Raymond Moore still gets choked up when recalling February 11, 1990. Moore was in Hawaii watching on television as Nelson Mandela walked out of prison a free man and raised a triumphant fist, giving hope to thousands of South Africans like him. "Imprisoned for so long, 27 years, subjected to all kinds of brutality and come out with forgiveness," said Moore.
Moore is now the Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the BNP Paribas Open and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. He grew up in apartheid in South Africa. He began his professional tennis career, even representing his country in the Davis Cup, all while Mandela sat in prison. Though white, Moore was deeply moved by the racial segregation in his country. He took a great interest in Mandela's struggle, even sharing it with one of his best friends, American tennis legend Arthur Ashe. "There's this man called Nelson Mandela, who's put himself through law school while in prison and is a man that could lead South Africa one day," Moore recalls telling Ashe when he asked about leaders in South Africa.
Ashe and Mandela developed a lasting friendship as both fought for social justice and change. Ashe, among other things, became the first black tennis player to play in the South African Open. Mandela beat apartheid, became South Africa's first black president and changed the country forever. "Oh, the country's saved, completely saved because of Nelson Mandela," said Moore.
Moore keeps a copy of Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom" in his office. It serves as a constant reminder of the indelible mark Mandela left on South Africa and on him. "You know, you get Martin Luther King, you get Winston Churchill...Nelson Mandela."
Moore regrets never meeting Mandela in person, but knows exactly what he would've said if he had gotten the chance. "Just told him how much I admired him and revered him."