Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson died Friday night, Sept. 1, at his summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts at age 75. No cause of death given.
In addition to his eight years as governor (2003-11), Richardson also was a member of Congress, the first elected to represent New Mexico’s then new Third Congressional District in 1982, a seat he held for 14 years. He resigned the House seat to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a post he held 1997-98 before serving as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, 1998-2001. He was briefly a presidential candidate in the Democratic primary in 2008. Richardson was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in August for his work in international hostage negotiations.
Richardson, a native of Los Angeles, grew up in Mexico City, went to prep school and college in Massachusetts, and moved to Santa Fe in 1978. He became executive director of the New Mexico Democratic Party and the Bernalillo County Democratic Party. His first bid for elective office came in 1980, when he narrowly lost the U.S. House seat in New Mexico’s First Congressional District to long-time incumbent Manuel Lujan.
“I am saddened to learn of Governor Richardson’s passing and wish to express my condolences to his family,” former New Mexico Gov. and New Mexico State University Chancellor and President Garrey Carruthers told the Bulletin. “Governor Richardson was a consummate politician and statesman. Few New Mexicans have achieved the acclaimed public service status accorded the Governor. I liked him personally and very much appreciated him seeking my counsel and assistance such as asking me to Cochair the Ethics Taskforce, Chair the New Mexico Medicaid Advisory Committee, campaign with him for passage of the Spaceport tax initiative, and joining me in teaching a class at NMSU. More public leaders should follow his lead in reaching out to members of the opposite party for advice, counsel and assistance. In addition, he named the State Library after me. Now you know why I think he was the consummate politician and statesman.”
"Governor Richardson’s loss will be felt across the planet,” U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., said.
“Richardson has left an indelible mark on New Mexico politics and public service. He lived and loved big, mentored a generation of leaders, and served our great state and nation.”
The Democratic Party of New Mexico released the following statement on the passing of Governor Bill Richardson:
“It is a sad day for New Mexico Democrats as we remember the life and mourn the passing of Governor Bill Richardson,” the Democratic Party of New Mexico said. “Governor Richardson was a larger-than-life public figure who always put public service first.”
“Governor Richardson was a giant in public service and government,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M. “He was trusted to handle some of the most sensitive diplomatic crises, and he did so with great success. Here in New Mexico, we will always remember him as our governor. He never stopped fighting for the state he called home. Governor Richardson was a close friend who held the same House seat that I was elected to. He knew how to get things done, and he worked closely with my late father in the Legislature.”
“New Mexico, our country, and, frankly, the entire world lost a champion,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “Bill Richardson was a titan among us, fighting for the little guy, world peace and everything in between. He was a visionary who saw the potential of our great state before so many others did. He saw us taking on Hollywood and reaching for the stars, launching both the film and space industries that continue to reap significant economic benefits today. For my own part, Bill was a mentor and adviser who was instrumental in my own journey into elected office. He was a steadfast friend who celebrated my successes, and someone I could turn to in those moments when leading is particularly challenging. I am immeasurably grateful to have known such a giant among men.”
“Governor Richardson’s belief in the future of New Mexico is reflected in Spaceport America’s journey in developing technologies, companies, and economic opportunity for the citizens of our state and all mankind,” said Spaceport officials. “During his time in office, Governor Richardson had a vital and profound impact on the creation of the spaceport. It can well be argued that the spaceport would not exist without his vision, passion, belief in the potential of New Mexico, and the tireless work he put in to make it a reality. He will be greatly missed.”
Richardson earned a BA, majoring in French and political science, and an MA in international affairs from Tufts University. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, whom he married in 1972.