Former Governor of New Mexico. Bill Richardson, a longtime member of Democratic politics who served as energy secretary and United Nations ambassador under 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 lived his entire life in the service of others, including his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people taken hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. There was no person Governor Richardson would not talk to if that contained a promise to restore a person’s freedom,” Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center, said in a statement.
“The world has lost an advocate for those wrongfully held abroad and I have lost a mentor and dear friend.”
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Richardson, in a joint statement, as “a devoted public servant and skillful diplomat.”
“Whether in an official or unofficial capacity, he was a masterful and persistent negotiator who helped make our world safer and secured the release of many people wrongfully held abroad,” the two said.
President Joe Biden also praised Richardson as “a patriot and a true original.”
“Over the years, I have seen firsthand his passion for politics, his love of America, and his unwavering belief that, with respect and good faith, people can come together despite any difference, no matter how great. whatever,” Biden said in a statement.
Richardson began his political career in earnest as an aide to then-Massachusetts Representative Frank Bradford Morse before becoming a staff member of the US 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 the Third District of New Mexico. Richardson later served as the 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 an unsuccessful run for president in 2008, Richardson launched the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a nonprofit organization that promotes international peace, in 2011.
Richardson and the center that bears his name had worked privately on behalf of the families of hostages and detainees abroad. He traveled to Moscow last year and held meetings with Russian leaders to discuss the release of basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Richardson “dedicated his life to public service.”
“Whether inside or outside of government, he was driven by a fierce belief in the power of diplomacy,” the top US diplomat said in a statement. “He demonstrated the value of commitment and charted an inspiring path for future generations of public servants to follow.”
The US presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, also expressed his condolences on Saturday. in a post on Xformerly known as Twitter.
“My condolences to the family of Governor Bill Richardson, Mickey Bergman and the team at the Richardson Center for Global Engagement,” Carstens said, posting a photo of the two along with his statement.
Carstens and Richardson worked together on hostage relief efforts, including those related to the arrests of Griner and Whelan.
“On behalf of the countless families Governor Richardson and his Center have helped, I wanted to express our deep sense of loss at his passing,” Neda Sharghi, president of the Bring Our Families Home campaign, said in a statement Saturday. “Governor Richardson has been a strong supporter of human rights and the effort to bring home people wrongfully detained abroad.”
Matthew Heath, an American who was wrongfully detained in Venezuela, noted that “although I had never met him (Richardson), he worked tirelessly, selflessly and relentlessly for my release.”
“He called for my freedom and the freedom of other Americans. His center provided hundreds and hundreds of hours of support for my family while I was detained,” Heath told CNN on Saturday. “Knowing that a force of nature like Governor Richardson was advocating at the highest levels of both governments was a ray of hope for me while in captivity. The passing of Governor Richardson is like a light going out of 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 BA in political science and French from Tufts University in 1970 and an MA from Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.
He married Barbara Richardson in 1972 and had a daughter.
This story has been updated with additional information.