President Jacob Zuma renamed Bloemfontein International to Bram Fischer International Airport.
He lauded Fischer as having been part of a generation of freedom fighters who pioneered South Africa's struggle for liberation.
In a speech prepared for delivery at the airport on Thursday, Zuma said: "Current and future generations will draw lessons from the life of Bram Fischer and his selfless contribution to this country."
One of the most unique and often unknown features of the struggle was its non-racial nature, Zuma said.
"White compatriots who believed in human rights and justice, such as Comrade Bram Fischer, sacrificed their privileges as they could not accept that other human beings could be treated inhumanely," he said.
"Given our historical experience, all of us have a responsibility to do all we can to free the South African society of the anguish, the pain and the degradation of the past."
The renaming ceremony was delayed as guests waited more than an hour for Zuma to arrive.
Zuma said Fisher came from an eminent Afrikaner family, with his grandfather a prime minister of the Orange River colony and a Cabinet member after the Union of South Africa was formed.
His father Percy Fischer was a judge president of the Orange Free State, and because of his family history and background, Fischer was destined for great things within the Afrikaner community.
"He chose instead the long and hard road to freedom, not only for himself but for all of us.
He chose the road that had to pass through the jail," the president said. "He travelled it with courage and dignity."
"He served as an example to many who followed him… He understood very well that he could not be entirely free unless and until the rest of South Africa was free."
Later on Thursday afternoon, Zuma was expected to unveil a statue of former president Nelson Mandela, who was spending his sixth day in a Pretoria hospital receiving treatment for a lung infection. – Sapa