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Singapore's Founding Prime Minister Dies At Age 91

Lee Kuan Yew led the country for 31 years as it became an economic powerhouse. The city state began seven days of mourning on Monday.

Last updated on March 23, 2015, at 6:57 a.m. ET

Posted on March 22, 2015, at 4:54 p.m. ET

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first and longest serving prime minister, died Monday at age 91, the nation's government said.

Mohd Fyrol / AFP / Getty Images

He died early Monday morning at Singapore General Hospital, where he had been fighting severe pneumonia for weeks.

Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

Many tributes had been posted outside the hospital prior to Lee's passing.

Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

His son and current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, had recently thanked the people of Singapore for their support as his father's condition worsened.

He addressed the nation Monday morning, describing his father as a man who gave his life for Singapore.

Lee Hsien Loong called on residents to keep working for an "exceptional and successful Singapore" in honor of the country's founding father."Even was we mourn his passing, let us also honor his spirit," he said.
Channel News Asia / Via

Lee Hsien Loong called on residents to keep working for an "exceptional and successful Singapore" in honor of the country's founding father.

"Even was we mourn his passing, let us also honor his spirit," he said.

Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore from 1959 to 1990 and was the first of only three prime ministers.

He is credited with leading the island nation's growth following its independence from Malaysia in 1965. During his tenure, Singapore developed into a financial center in spite of its small size and lack of natural resources.

After stepping down as prime minister, Lee remained a leader within the government until his retirement in 2011.

His successor as prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, described him as selfless leader who made modern Singapore.

Facebook: MParader

A statement from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon called Lee "one of the most inspiring Asian leaders."

UN / Via

President Barack Obama described Lee as a "giant of history."

On behalf of American ppl, POTUS & FLOTUS offer deepest condolences to Lee family & join ppl of #Singapore in mourning loss of Lee Kuan Yew

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Singapore’s Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to the Lee family and join the people of Singapore in mourning the loss of this remarkable man. A visionary who led his country from Singapore’s independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader. Minister Mentor Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development. I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific. He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one the great strategists of Asian affairs."

Former U.S. president George H. W. Bush also praised Lee's legacy.

Statement by @GeorgeHWBush on the passing of his friend Lee Kuan Yew, who served PM of Singapore from 1959-1990.

"I am deeply saddened at the news of Lee Kuan Yew's passing. I respected his effective leadership of his wonderful, resilient and innovative country in ways that lifted living standards without indulging a culture of corruption. I was also proud of the progress Singapore and the United States achieved together as partners. Because of the example set by Lee Kuan Yew's singular leadership, let me add I am confident that the future will be bright for Singapore. Barbara and I and indeed the entire Bush family extend our heartfelt condolences to Prime Minister Lee's family and countrymen. I will always be proud that Lee Kuan Yew was my friend."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the region owed much to Lee's vision and determination.

Prime Minister Abbott releases statement: “Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew”

"Today we mourn the passing of a giant of our region. Fifty years ago, Lee Kuan Yew led a vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence. Today, thanks to his vision and determination, Singapore is one of the world's most successful countries. In Lee Kuan Yew's own words, Singapore's remarkable journey has been from 'third world to first.' Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the world's most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one of the world's easiest places to do business. Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew. Here in Australia and beyond, leaders sought and learned from his wise counsel. As Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed close relationships with successive Australian prime ministers and worked with them to establish the strong partnership that Singapore and Australia have today. At every stage, Australia and Singapore have stood shoulder to shoulder. We continue to do so today as we salute one of the significant leaders of our time. On behalf of the Australian government and people, I extend my condolences to Mr. Lee's family and to the people of Singapore."

This week will be a national time of mourning, Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.

Facebook: leehsienloong

His body will lie in state Wednesday through Saturday. The funeral is scheduled for March 29 at National University of Singapore.

Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

Singapore began seven days of national mourning on Monday.

A man bows as he pays his respects to Lee Kuan Yew at a community club in his former parliamentary constituency.
Edgar Su / Reuters

A man bows as he pays his respects to Lee Kuan Yew at a community club in his former parliamentary constituency.