Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a longtime fixture in Democratic politics who served as energy secretary and United Nations ambassador during the Clinton administration, died Friday, the Richardson Center for Global Engagement said in a statement. He was 75 years old.
Richardson died in his sleep at his summer home in Massachusetts.
“He has lived his entire life in service to others — including his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongly detained abroad. There was no person “Governor Richardson wouldn’t talk to him if he held out the promise of restoring someone to freedom.”
“The world has lost an advocate for those unjustly detained abroad, a mentor and a dear friend.”
In a joint statement, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Richardson, calling him a “dedicated public servant and skilled diplomat.”
“Whether in his official or unofficial capacity, he was a brilliant and persistent negotiator who helped make our world safer and succeeded in the release of many individuals unjustly detained abroad,” the couple said.
President Joe Biden similarly praised Richardson as a “true patriot and patriot.”
“Over the years, I have seen firsthand his passion for politics, his love for America, and his unwavering belief that, with respect and good faith, people can come together to overcome any difference, no matter how great,” Biden said in a statement.
Richardson began his political career in earnest as an aide to then-Massachusetts Rep. Frank Bradford Morse before becoming a staffer at the U.S. State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1970s.
He was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1983, representing New Mexico’s 3rd District. Richardson later served as US Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy before being elected Governor of New Mexico in 2002. He served two terms before leaving office in 2011.
After his failed bid for the presidency in 2008, Richardson launched the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a non-profit organization that works to promote international peace, in 2011.
Richardson and his namesake center have worked specifically on behalf of families of hostages and detainees abroad. He traveled to Moscow last year and held meetings with Russian leadership to discuss the release of basketball star Britney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Richardson “has dedicated his life to public service.”
“Whether inside or outside government, he was driven by a strong belief in the power of diplomacy,” the top US diplomat said in a statement. “He demonstrated the value of engagement and charted an inspiring path for future generations of public sector employees to follow.”
US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens also expressed his condolences on Saturday In a post on Xformerly known as Twitter.
“My heartfelt condolences to Governor Bill Richardson’s family and to Mickey Bergman and the team at the Richardson Center for Global Engagement,” Carstens said, posting a photo of them alongside his statement.
Carstens and Richardson worked together on hostage relief efforts, including those related to the detention of Greiner and Whelan.
“On behalf of the countless families helped by Governor Richardson and his center, I wanted to express our deep sense of loss over his death,” Nidaa Sharqi, chair of the Bring Our Families Home campaign, said in a statement Saturday. “Governor Richardson has been a fierce advocate for human rights and efforts to repatriate people wrongfully detained abroad.”
Matthew Heath, an American who was unjustly detained in Venezuela, noted that “although I never met him… [Richardson]He worked tirelessly, selflessly and relentlessly for my liberation.
He advocated for my freedom and the freedom of other Americans. “His center provided hundreds and hundreds of hours of support to my family while I was detained,” Heath told CNN on Saturday. “Knowing that a force of nature like Governor Richardson was advocating for him at the highest levels of both governments was a beacon of hope for me while in captivity. The death of Governor Richardson is like a light going out in this world.
Richardson was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California. He grew up in Mexico City, Mexico, and left to attend boarding school in Massachusetts in 1960.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and French from Tufts University in 1970 and a master’s degree from Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.
He married Barbara Richardson in 1972 and they have one daughter.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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