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.”
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Richardson in a joint statement as “a dedicated public servant and skilled diplomat.”
“Whether in an official or unofficial capacity, he was a masterful and consistent negotiator who helped make our world a safer place and won the release of many people unjustly held abroad,” the pair said.
President Joe Biden similarly hailed Richardson as “a patriot and a true original.”
“Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand his passion for politics, his love and respect for America, and his fierce belief that people can meet any difference, no matter how big, with good faith,” Biden said in a statement.
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. He served two terms before leaving office in 2011
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.
Richardson has “dedicated his life to public service,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Saturday.
“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 servants to follow.”
Roger Carstens, the US president’s special envoy for hostage affairs, also offered his condolences on Saturday In a post on XFormerly known as Twitter.
“My heartfelt condolences to the family of Gov. Bill Richardson and Mickey Bergman and the team at the Richardson Center,” Carstens posted a photo of the two with his statement.
Carstens and Richardson worked together on hostage relief efforts.
“On behalf of Governor Richardson and the countless families his center 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.”
Matthew Heath, an American wrongfully detained in Venezuela, said, “Although I have never met [Richardson]He worked tirelessly, selflessly and relentlessly for my liberation.
“He pleaded 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 in custody,” Heath told CNN on Saturday. “Cover. Knowing that a force of nature like Richardson was arguing with the highest levels of both governments was a beacon of hope for me during my 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 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.