Nyerere was born April 13, 1922 and received a scholarship to attend Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda where he earned a teaching diploma. He taught biology and English for three years before getting a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh in England where he earned his Masters of Arts Degree in Economics and History in 1952. He was the first Tanganyikan to study at a British university and the second to gain a university degree outside of Africa.
In 1953 he was elected President of the Tanganyika African Association, which he transformed into the leading political organization in the country. During this time he stopped teaching and traveled the country garnering support for independence from England. In 1961, Tanganyika was granted self-governance and Nyerere became its first Prime Minister and a year later he was elected President. In 1964 he led the union of the islands of Zanzibar and Tanganyika to form Tanzania.
Nyerere retired as President in 1985 and is still recognized as the “father of the nation.” Nyerere received honorary degrees from universities around the world, including Howard and Lincoln in the United States. In 2007 he was posthumously awarded the Katonga, Uganda’s highest military medal, in honor of his opposition to colonialism. In 2009, Nyerere was named “World Hero of Social Justice” by the United Nations General Assembly. The Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam is named in his honor.