Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, died Saturday. Richardson is 75 years old.
Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center, said in a statement, “Governor Richardson passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. “He lived his entire life in the service of others — his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people who were held hostage or wrongfully arrested overseas,” Bergman said.
“Governor Richardson is not a man who will not speak when he promises to restore a person to freedom. The world has lost a champion for those unjustly imprisoned abroad, and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend.”
Richardson was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last month for saving Americans who recently arrested WNBA player Brittney Griner at a Moscow airport. Griner was released last December after being detained for about ten months.
Over the past three decades, Richardson has traveled the world negotiating and advocating for the release of Americans detained in Bangladesh, North Korea, Sudan, Colombia and Iraq. Richardson traveled to dangerous areas including Congo, then known as Zaire in 1997, and Afghanistan in 1998 to broker peaceful power transfers and meet with infamous dictators Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il.
The Richardson Center, a nonprofit organization, was created to support the former governor’s work to facilitate dialogue and global peace. He positioned himself as an alternative to traditional diplomatic channels, especially for countries hostile to established diplomatic powers.
In his 2013 book, “How to Sweet Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator,” Richardson advises, “Respect the other side. Try to connect personally. Use a sense of humor. Let the other side save face.”
Richardson was born William Blaine Richardson in Pasadena, California. He grew up in Mexico City with his Mexican mother. His father was an American banker.
Richardson came to New Mexico in 1978 and chose to run for political office in the state because of his Hispanic roots. He is credited with changing New Mexico politics.
During his tenure as governor, he announced a $50,000 minimum annual salary for highly qualified teachers statewide, raising the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.50 an hour, pre-K programs for 4-year-olds and $400. Million passenger train system from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
Among other accomplishments, on the campaign trail for the 2002 New Mexico gubernatorial race, Richardson set a Guinness World Record for the most handshakes by a politician in eight hours: 13,392 handshakes.
Richardson ran for president in 2008, later supporting Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Obama picked Richardson to be secretary of commerce, but a grand jury investigation into a payment scheme with a political donor who secured a lucrative contract forced Richardson to bow out of consideration.
State politicians praised Richardson’s legacy following the news of his death.
Rep. Gabe Vasquez shared a heartfelt comment news Called Richardson “a titan in New Mexico and abroad.”
“I mourn the passing of this New Mexico legend, one of the most powerful Hispanics in politics this nation has ever seen. Today, we remember his decades of service and the way he always proudly represented New Mexico,” Vasquez continued.
Sen. Ben Ray called Lujan Richardson “a giant in public service and government.”
“Here in New Mexico, we will always remember him as our governor. He never stopped fighting for the state he called home,” Lujan said. wrote.