Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a longtime Democrat 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 is 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 held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas. Richardson Center Vice President Mickey Bergman said in a statement that when he promises to return a person to freedom, Governor Richardson does not mince words. No person.
“The world has lost a champion for those unjustly imprisoned abroad, and I have lost a mentor and dear friend.”
Richardson began his political career in earnest in the 1970s as an aide to then-Massachusetts Representative Frank Bradford Morse before becoming a staffer at the US State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He was first elected to the US House in 1983, representing New Mexico’s Third District. Richardson later served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of energy before being elected governor of New Mexico in 2002.
After an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2008, Richardson launched the Richardson Center for Global Engagement in 2011.
Richardson and his naming center have personally worked on behalf of families of hostages and detainees abroad. He traveled to Moscow last year and held meetings with the Russian leadership to discuss the release of basketball star Britney Greiner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
“On behalf of Governor Richardson and the countless families his center has helped, I wanted to express our deepest loss at his passing,” Neda Sharkey, 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 bring home people unjustly deported.”
Democratic New Mexico Sen. “Richardson’s legacy will have a lasting impact,” said Martin Heinrich. Report on XFormerly known as Twitter.
“Gov. Richardson believed New Mexico could do great things. His ambition for our state meant he never accepted complacency and always pushed us to fight for the future we deserved. I had the privilege of serving in his administration and will be forever grateful for all he taught me,” Heinrich posted.
Richardson was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California. He grew up in Mexico City, Mexico, and in 1960 went to boarding school in Massachusetts.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and French from Tufts University in 1970 and a master’s degree in 1971 from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
He married Barbara Richardson in 1972, with whom he had a daughter.
This story has been updated with additional information.