de Klerk, F. W. (Frederik Willem de Klerk) frĕd´ərĭk vĭl´əm də klûrk´ [key], 1936–, South African statesman, president of South Africa (1989–94). Holding ministerial posts from 1978, he became (1989) acting president when P. W. Botha resigned. Recognizing that black resistance to the white power monopoly would only increase, de Klerk, despite his conservative reputation, began the process of ending apartheid , lifting the ban on antiapartheid parties and releasing Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. In 1991 he obtained the repeal of all remaining apartheid laws and called for the drafting of a new constitution, leading to the approval of a multiracial transitional government in 1993. De Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. Mandela succeeded de Klerk as president in 1994, and de Klerk became one of two vice presidents in a government of national unity. Two years later the National Party withdrew from the government to form an official opposition, and in 1997 De Klerk retired from politics.
See his autobiographical The Last Trek (1999).