Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who also served in Congress, as ambassador to the UN and as secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, has passed away, according to the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, the organization he founded to promote international peace and dialogue. . He was 75.
Richardson died at his summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts, the organization said.
“Governor Richardson passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. He has spent his life serving others – including his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free those held hostage or wrongly held abroad said Mickey Bergman, vice president. of the Richardson Center, said in a statement Saturday.
“The world has lost a champion to those wrongfully detained abroad, and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend,” the statement added.
Richardson was first elected to New Mexico’s newly formed Third Congressional District in 1982. Richardson served in the U.S. House until 1997, when he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by President Bill Clinton. He later served as Minister of Energy from 1998 to 2000.
He was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002. His achievements as governor, according to the Richardson Center, included improving the number of jobs in the state and boosting economic development by bringing the motion picture industry to New Mexico, resulting in more than 140 major motion picture and TV productions. productions. He also built a light rail system from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, and partnered with Virgin Galactic to build a commercial spaceport.
In 2008, he sought the Democratic nomination for president, but dropped out after Iowa and New Hampshire.
After serving two terms as governor, Richardson turned his attention to global conflict resolution and the release of political prisoners, particularly Americans wrongly held abroad. Founded in 2011, the Richardson Center is credited with successfully negotiating the release of hostages and people imprisoned in several countries, including North Korea, Colombia, Sudan, Cuba and Myanmar.
Richardson was involved in recent efforts to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner and U.S. Marine Trevor Reed.
For his work as a diplomat and prisoner negotiator, Richardson was nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Richardson also co-founded the Foundation to Preserve New Mexico Wildlife with actor Robert Redford.
President Joe Biden remembered Richardson as a “patriot and truly original” who “seized every opportunity to serve and took on every new challenge with joy.”
“Few have served our nation in so many capacities or with so much ferocity, creativity and cheerfulness,” Biden said in a written statement Saturday, noting Richardson’s role as ambassador, cabinet secretary, governor and congressman.
“But perhaps his most lasting legacy will be the work Bill did to free Americans held in some of the most dangerous places on Earth,” Biden added.
The president noted that the two first crossed paths when Richardson was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Biden served on as a senator.
“Over the years, I have seen firsthand his passion for politics, love for America and his unwavering belief that people, with respect and good faith, can come together over any difference, no matter how big,” Biden said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Richardson was “driven by a fierce belief in the power of diplomacy.”
“He demonstrated the value of engagement and laid out an inspiring path for future generations of civil servants to follow,” Blinken said in a statement.
“I am saddened to learn that former NM Governor Bill Richardson has passed away,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who previously served as U.S. Representative from New Mexico, said in a statement Saturday. “He was a champion for tribes and brought Indian affairs to the cabinet level. He helped me ensure that Indigenous students were educated in the state. He was a true friend and one of our country’s esteemed diplomats.’
Former Vice President Al Gore, who served with Richardson in the Clinton administration, said in a statement: “He was an exceptional public servant, a relentless advocate for those wrongfully detained abroad, and a true friend. I extend my deepest condolences to the Richardson family. in this difficult time.”
Richardson was born in Pasadena, California, and raised in Mexico City and Concord, Massachusetts. His parents were of Mexican descent. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and French from Tufts in 1970 and a master’s degree from Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.
Richardson is survived by his wife Barbara and a daughter.