1931 – Oct. 7 – Desmond Mpilo Tutu is born in Klerksdorp, near Johannesburg.
1947 – Contracts tuberculosis, as he recuperates, he is visited by Trevor Huddleston, a British Anglican pastor working in South Africa.
1955 – Marries Nomalizo Leah Shenxane and begins teaching at a secondary school in Johannesburg.
1961 – Is ordained as a minister in the Anglican church, after quitting teaching in disgust at South Africa’s apartheid government’s inferior education for Blacks.
1962 – Studies theology at King’s College London.
1966 – Returns to South Africa to teach at a seminary in the Eastern Cape.
1975 – Becomes the Anglican Church’s first Black dean of Johannesburg.
1976 – Serves as Bishop of Lesotho and voices criticism of apartheid in South Africa.
1978 – Becomes general-secretary of the South African Council of Churches and achieves global prominence as a leading opponent of apartheid, supports economic sanctions to achieve majority rule in South Africa.
1984 – Wins Nobel Peace Prize – “There is no peace in southern Africa. There is no peace because there is no justice. There can be no real peace and security until there be first justice enjoyed by all the inhabitants of that beautiful land,” Tutu says in his acceptance speech.
1985 – Becomes the first Black bishop of Johannesburg.
1986 – Is ordained the first Black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.
1989 – Leads anti-apartheid march of 30,000 people through Cape Town.
1990 – Hosts Nelson Mandela for his first night of freedom after Mandela is released from prison after being held for 27 years for his opposition to apartheid. Mandela calls Tutu “the people’s archbishop.”
1994 – Votes in South Africa’s first democratic election in which all races can cast ballots.
1995 – President Nelson Mandela appoints Tutu to be chairman of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
1996 – Tutu retires as prelate, the Anglican Church gives him the title of Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.
1997 – Is diagnosed with prostate cancer and announces it to help with public awareness of the disease.
1998 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission publishes its report, putting most of the blame for abuses on the forces of apartheid, but also finds the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations. The ANC sues to block the document’s release, earning a rebuke from Tutu.
2009 – Aug. 12 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama.
2010 – July 22 – Retires from public life, tells press: “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
2013 – Launches international campaign for LGBTQ rights in Cape Town. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic.”
2014 – July 12 – Urges the British parliament to allow assisted dying, saying, “The manner of Nelson Mandela’s prolonged death was an affront.”
2021 – Oct. 7 – Frail, in a wheelchair, Tutu attends his 90th birthday celebration at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
2021 – Dec. 26 – Tutu dies in Cape Town.