Sadly neither John Hume, nor Seamus Mallon lived just long enough to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of their creation the Social Democratic and Labour Party. That foundation in 1970 changed politics forever on the island of Ireland.
In his political biography entitled: All Hell Will Break Loose, Austin Currie one of six Stormont MPs (and Senator Paddy Wilson, murdered by the UFF in 1973 ) who founded the party, amusingly recalled, that the SDLP was probably the only party anywhere born on a radio programme.
He explained, that although discussions had successfully proceeded through the summer of 1970 , there was a serious hold-up of the launch of the party due to a failure to agree its leader. The choice was between Gerry Fitt, a Westminster MP and John Hume, the uncrowned leader of the civil rights movement. Austin Currie resolved the dilemma by stating on RTE radio, that: "The only person with the necessary experience and ability is Gerry Fitt."
Within four days, the SDLP was officially launched in the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast on August 21, 1970. Little did they know then, the profound impact that their decision to form the SDLP was to have on politics.
The party rapidly recruited members and established party branches throughout the north. Shortly afterwards in 1973 in the election to the new Assembly, the party remarkably gained 22% of the vote and returned 19 members.
This was a new political experience for the nationalist community that had not known organised democratic politics at a grass roots level since partition. The old Nationalist Party was a moribund political organisation without members, or branches.
The leadership issue was not as trivial as it might now appear, because of the towering role that Gerry Fitt played in Belfast politics and in the north at large. In winning the West Belfast Westminster seat in 1966, the charismatic MP had established himself as a powerful figure in politics both at home and at Westminster, where he had by dint of his colourful personality won over the support of Labour Party MPs.
Single-handedly, he challenged and successfully got rid of the Westminster convention that prevented Stormont matters being debated on the floor of the House of Commons.
Although Gerry Fitt was the leader, it was his deputy leader, John Hume, who was the real leader of the party. He developed the overriding political strategy that the party adopted in addressing the increasingly dangerous situation that faced Northern Ireland.
But without Fitt's important involvement, the party would not have had support in Belfast and that would have undermined the party from the very start.
By redefining Irish nationalism the party radically transformed politics in Northern Ireland and indeed throughout the rest of the country. No other party has had a greater influence on Irish politics since partition, than the SDLP.
Not only did it provide an alternative to the ethnocentric nationalism and political violence of the provisional republican movement, but it provided an alternative creative democratic strategy, based upon building partnership to achieve reconciliation between the two traditions and unity by consent. The SDLP stood traditional Irish nationalist thinking on its head.
The party has always led the way, whether it was the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973, the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, or the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
As the former West Belfast MP, Joe Hendron said: "The SDLP has always been a catalyst for change."
The party continues to have a pivotal role in fulfilling the aim of its founders, of achieving a new north and a new Ireland.
The SDLP is the only political party, that unionists can depend upon to respect and to defend their unique political identity in the post-Brexit period. It is the only party that can act as a real bridge between the two traditions and energise partnership in government and throughout the community.
Its present Assembly group is made up of a highly talented group of young politicians with massive potential. In the wake of John Hume's sad departure, they have a wonderful opportunity to attract new support and members by casting their net wider across the whole community.
Even more important, they should also rededicate their commitment to building partnership with their unionist neighbours in order to bring about, that long sought after, but elusive reconciliation.
People often ask, what is the role of the SDLP now?
It is the same as it always was, that is achieving reconciliation through partnership. Everything that the SDLP does should be measured against that goal.
As Mark Twain wryly remarked: "Rumours about my demise are greatly exaggerated."
And so it is with the SDLP, its frequently predicted demise has been greatly exaggerated over the past 50 years.
John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Austin Currie and Paddy Devlin in 1975