Dick Clark was Mandela when Mandela wasn’t cool.

A one-term Democratic senator from Iowa and for years afterward a leader of congressional discussions on apartheid, Clark is now 85 and long gone from the public scene. But the ups and downs of his career are an intriguing back story — and counterpoint — to the outpouring of praise for Nelson Mandela, the black liberation leader and former president of South Africa who died Dec. 5.

It wasn’t always that way in Washington.

Indeed, Mandela turned 60 in South Africa’s Robben Island prison in the summer of 1978 even as Clark— chairman of the African Affairs panel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — was fighting for his own re-election in Iowa.

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