Carter: Mandela belongs next to MLK, Gandhi and Mother Teresa

Carter formed 'instant friendship' with Mandela 2:34

Former President Jimmy Carter told NBC News on Monday that he places Nelson Mandela alongside Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa as exemplars of inspiration and moral virtue in world history.

In an interview with Brian Williams from Johannesburg, the 39th president said that Mandela belongs among figures to be looked upon “with a great deal of admiration.”

“They weathered very difficult times, they came through with flying colors, they inspired other people,” Carter said. “I think that Nelson would go down in history as one of the leading people of the century.”

Carter is in South Africa to attend a memorial service Tuesday for Mandela, the giant of the anti-apartheid movement, who died last week at age 95. President Barack Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will also attend.

Clinton told NBC News last week that Mandela was a “profoundly good man” and “great friend” who “set an example for how to live that went way beyond political leadership to the core of what life should be about.”

Carter, 89, is attending the service as a member of The Elders, a collection of former heads of state, social revolutionaries and other world leaders who travel the globe promoting peace and human rights. Mandela was a member.

The interview airs tonight on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.”