In the early 1960s when Nelson Mandela visited President Tubman in Monrovia, the South African Liberation leader was living in a local hotel. His go-between contact with President Tubman was Ernest Eastman, then a senior official in Liberia’s State Department (later Foreign Ministry).
At one point, Mr. Mandela sent word to the President that something had happened that made him (Mandela) very uncomfortable. He, therefore, appealed to President Tubman to move him out of the hotel to stay in a more secluded place, where it would be safer.
President Tubman contacted Ernest Eastman and suggested that he should host Mr. Mandela at Eastman’s home, on Tubman Boulevard in Congotown.
The rest is history. The man who briefly occupied these premises was, upon his return home, later arrested by South Africa’s apartheid regime and kept in prison for 27 years.
But he was later released and his party, the African National Congress, won the 1994 elections by a landslide, and he became the first black President of South Africa.
President Mandela never forgot Ernest Eastman, who was the conduit between Mandela and Tubman, including handing him thousands of United States dollars in cash from the Liberian leader each time Mandela visited.
Mr. Eastman later became Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary of State Rudolph Grimes during the Tubman administration, and later Ambassador to Kenya and Japan during the Tolbert administration. Eastman, one of the nation’s most seasoned diplomats, also served Foreign Minister under both Presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor.