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Desmond Tutu Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


Birth date: October 7, 1931

Death date: December 26, 2021

Birth place: Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa

Birth name: Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Father: Zachariah Tutu, schoolteacher

Mother: Aletta Tutu, domestic servant

Marriage: Nomalizo Leah (Shenxane) Tutu (July 2, 1955-present)

Children: Trevor, Theresa, Naomi and Mpho

Education: Bantu Normal Teacher’s College, Pretoria, 1953, South Africa; University of South Africa, Johannesburg, B.A., 1954; St. Peter’s Theological College, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1960

Religion: Anglican

Other Facts

Sometimes referred to as “the Arch.”

Chaired South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


1954-1957 Teaches school, and resigns in protest of government restrictions on education for black children.

1961 Is ordained an Anglican priest.

1975 Becomes the first black appointed Anglican dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg.

1976 Is consecrated Bishop of Lesotho.

1978 – Becomes the first black secretary general of the interdenominational South African Council of Churches.

1984 – Becomes the second South African, after Chief Albert Lutuli, to win the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to end apartheid.

1986 – Is elected archbishop of Cape Town, becoming the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho.

1995 Is selected by South African President Nelson Mandela to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

1996 – Retires as the archbishop of Cape Town and becomes archbishop emeritus.

1997 Is diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated at hospitals in the United States.

1998 Establishes the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust.

1998-2000 – Visiting professor of theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

2002 – Visiting professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

March 2003 Presents the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report to South African President Thabo Mbeki.

July 18, 2007 – Former President Mandela announces the formation of The Elders, a group of elder statesmen from around the world that will work to solve global problems. Among the members of the group are Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Ela Bhatt.

September 30, 2007 – Tutu leads The Elders on their first mission, to Darfur in Sudan.

July 30, 2009 Is awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama.

October 2011 – Tutu harshly criticizes the South African government for failing to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama. He accuses the government of pandering to China and in some ways being worse than the apartheid-era governments.

October 3, 2011 “Tutu: The Authorised Portrait” is published to coincide with Tutu’s 80th birthday. The book, written by his daughter Mpho and Allister Sparks, contains personal writings as well as anecdotes by people including Richard Branson, Bono, the Dalai Lama, Mandela and others.

September 2, 2012 In an op-ed published by The Observer newspaper, Tutu says that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George W. Bush should be “made to answer” at the International Criminal Court for their actions during the Iraq War.

October 4, 2012 Tutu is awarded $1 million by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for “his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power.”

December 3, 2012 A children’s book called “Desmond and the Very Mean Word” is published.

2013 – The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation is established in Cape Town.

April 4, 2013 – Tutu is awarded the 2013 Templeton Prize for his “life-long work in advancing spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness which has helped to liberate people around the world.” The prize is worth about $1.7 million dollars.

September 7, 2016 – Tutu undergoes surgery to address recurring infections affecting his health.

September 17-21, 2016 – Tutu is readmitted to a South African hospital after he shows signs of infection following his recent surgery.

October 6, 2016 – The day before his 85th birthday, he writes an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting the right to die with dignity. “Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.”

December 4, 2019 – Tutu has been admitted to hospital for “treatment of a stubborn infection,” according to a statement released by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. On December 9, the foundation says Tutu has been discharged from the hospital.

September 9, 2020 – Tutu and his wife escape unharmed from a fire in their cottage outside Cape Town, according to a statement from the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation.

December 26, 2021 – Tutu dies at the age of 90.

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