Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who had an illustrious career spanning politics and diplomacy, has passed away at the age of 75. The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, the organization he founded to promote international peace and dialogue, confirmed his demise at his summer residence in Chatham, Massachusetts.
Governor Richardson, as he was affectionately known, had a lifelong commitment to serving others. His dedication to public service extended from his time in government to his later career, where he tirelessly worked to secure the release of individuals unjustly detained abroad. Mickey Bergman, the Vice President of the Richardson Center, expressed, “Governor Richardson passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. He lived his entire life in the service of others – including both his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.”
Throughout his remarkable career, Richardson held various key positions. He was first elected to represent New Mexico’s Third Congressional District in 1982 and served in the U.S. House until 1997. President Bill Clinton appointed him as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a role he fulfilled with distinction. Subsequently, he served as the Secretary of Energy from 1998 to 2000.
In 2002, Richardson was elected as the Governor of New Mexico. During his tenure, he achieved significant milestones, such as boosting job numbers and stimulating economic development by attracting the movie industry to the state, resulting in over 140 major film and TV productions. He also spearheaded the construction of a light-rail system connecting Albuquerque to Santa Fe and collaborated with Virgin Galactic to establish a commercial spaceport. Additionally, he ventured into national politics, seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
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After completing two terms as governor, Richardson shifted his focus to global conflict resolution and advocating for the release of political prisoners, especially Americans wrongfully detained overseas. In 2011, he founded the Richardson Center, which played a crucial role in successfully negotiating the release of hostages and individuals incarcerated in countries like North Korea, Colombia, Sudan, Cuba, and Myanmar.
Richardson continued his humanitarian efforts, actively participating in campaigns to bring home individuals like WNBA star Brittney Griner and U.S. Marine Trevor Reed. His dedication earned him four nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Furthermore, Richardson co-founded the Foundation to Preserve New Mexico Wildlife in partnership with actor Robert Redford, demonstrating his commitment to environmental conservation.
In response to his passing, President Joe Biden praised Richardson as a “patriot and true original” who tirelessly served the nation in various capacities, showcasing his unwavering dedication to diplomacy and the well-being of American citizens detained abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized Richardson’s belief in the power of diplomacy, stating that he paved the way for future generations of public servants.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a former U.S. representative from New Mexico, acknowledged Richardson’s advocacy for Native American issues, including elevating Indian Affairs to a cabinet level. Former Vice President Al Gore, who worked alongside Richardson during the Clinton administration, described him as an exceptional public servant and a relentless advocate for those unjustly held overseas.
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Bill Richardson’s remarkable journey began in Pasadena, California, and took him to Mexico City and Concord, Massachusetts, during his upbringing. Born to parents of Mexican descent, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and French from Tufts University in 1970 and completed a master’s degree at Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.
Governor Richardson leaves behind a legacy of tireless public service and a lasting impact on diplomacy, humanitarian efforts, and the state of New Mexico. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and a daughter. His memory will continue to inspire future generations to serve and make the world a better place.