The Richardson Center for Global Engagement announced the passing of former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on Friday. Richardson was a mainstay in Democratic politics and served as Energy Secretary and United Nations ambassador under the Clinton administration. He was 75. At his Massachusetts summer house, Richardson passed away peacefully in his sleep.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson, who worked extensively on behalf the families of Americans detained abroad, has died. He was 75 https://t.co/CVLpDSfhT3
— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) September 2, 2023
“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. There was no person that Governor Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom,” Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center, said in a statement.
“The world has lost a champion for those held unjustly abroad and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend.” Before working for the US State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1970s, Richardson worked as an aide for then-Massachusetts Representative Frank Bradford Morse.
In 1983, he was first elected to represent New Mexico’s Third Congressional District. New Mexico’s governorship came in 2002, after Richardson had already served as US ambassador to the UN and secretary of energy. After two terms in office, he stepped down in 2011. Richardson created the non-profit Richardson Center for Global Engagement in 2011 after a failed run for the presidency in 2008.
Richardson and his named organization have secretly helped overseas relatives of hostages and captives. Last year, he went to Russia to engage with government officials there about freeing basketball player Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
“On behalf of the countless families that Governor Richardson and his Center have helped, I wanted to express our profound feeling of loss at his passing,” said Neda Sharghi, chair of the Bring Our Families Home Campaign, in a statement released on Saturday.
“Governor Richardson has been an outspoken supporter of human rights and the movement to repatriate those being held in detention abroad without due process.” Democratic New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich wrote on X (previously Twitter) that “Richardson’s legacy will have a lasting impact.”
Gov. Richardson believed New Mexico could do big things. His ambition for our state meant he never accepted mediocrity and always pushed us to fight for the future we deserved. I was privileged to serve in his administration and will forever be grateful for all that he taught me.
— Martin Heinrich (@SenatorHeinrich) September 2, 2023
Richardson, as governor, had faith in New Mexico’s potential for greatness. He demanded excellence for our state and never let us settle for less than the bright future we deserved. Forever grateful for the opportunity to work in his administration and the lessons he taught me, Heinrich wrote.
Richardson entered our world on a warm California day in 1947. He was born and raised in Mexico City before moving to the United States in 1960 to attend a boarding school in Massachusetts.
He graduated with a BA in political science and French from Tufts University in 1970, and then with an MA in law and diplomacy from the university’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy the following year. In 1972, he wed Barbara Richardson, and the couple eventually welcomed a daughter.
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