Former New Mexico Gov. and U.S. United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson passed away Saturday at the age of 75, according to multiple reports.
Richardson had recently been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in bringing Women’s National Basketball League player, Brittney Griner, back to the U.S. after she was detained in Russia, according to The Hill. Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center, said in a statement Saturday that Richardson had “passed away peacefully,” according to CBS News.
“Governor Richardson passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. 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,” Bergman said.
The former governor was born in Pasadena, California, and later grew up in Mexico City with a Mexican mother and an American father before moving to New Mexico after attending college, according to the Associated Press. He worked as a Capitol Hill staffer before running for his first seat in 1980, which he lost.
Richardson ran again in 1982 and won, proceeding to hold office in Congress from 1983 to 1997 before serving as the Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton, according to the AP. He was elected governor in 2002 and then ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008 but later dropped out after only finishing fourth in several key states.
President Barack Obama nominated Richardson for Secretary of Commerce, however, Richardson decided to decline the invitation in 2009 after a federal investigation was opened into his time as governor over allegations of a “pay to play” environment, according to the AP. Richardson also came under scrutiny during his time as energy secretary after computer equipment and nuclear information went missing from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Richardson’s expertise from his time as a U.N. ambassador quickly made him an unofficial diplomat, calling himself “the informal undersecretary for thugs.” He aided in the release of hostages and American military members from countries such as North Korea, Iraq, Cuba, Sudan and most recently Russia for the prisoner swap of Griner and arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Richardson also founded and presided over the Richardson Center, a nonprofit that works for global peace and dialogue with countries by using less formal diplomatic channels, according to the website. Bergman said in his statement that the world had “lost a champion.”
“There was no person that Governor Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom,” Bergman said, according to CBS. “The world has lost a champion for those held unjustly abroad and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend.”
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