William (Bill) Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico, seven-term congressman, former American ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of Energy, has died. He was 75. The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which he founded and led, released a statement Saturday announcing that he died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts.
He served New Mexico in Congress from 1982 to 1997 when he resigned to join the Clinton administration as U.N. Envoy. His successor as Ambassador to the United Nations was Richard C. Holbrooke, Chief negotiator of the 1995 Bosnian peace settlement and Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico, seven-term congressman, former American ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of Energy, has died. He was 75. The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which he founded and led, released a statement Saturday announcing that he died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts.
He served in Congress from 1982 to 1997 when he resigned to join the Clinton administration as U.N. Envoy. In June 1998 his succesor as Ambassador to the United Nations was Richard C. Holbrooke – the architect of the Dayton Accords, Chief negotiator of the Bosnian peace settlement and U.S. Special Envoy who reached an agrement on Kosovo with Yugoslav President Milosevic. At the same nomination ceremony in 1998 Bill Richardson was moving to the position of Secretary of Energy as Richard Holbrooke was taking his place as the United Nations Ambassdor.
President Clinton praised Richardson, who had previously served him as Secretary of State. “Over the last 2 years, his experience, energy, and tenacity have made a real difference in advancing our interest in the United Nations and around the world.” Crediting his diplomatic skills and personal touch, Clinton stated that Bill Richardson had “brought creativity and drive to our leadership at the UN.”
Bill Richardson served as Secretary of Energy from 1998 until the end of the Clinton presidency.
In his role as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Richardson used the bully pulpit to condemn human rights violations and ethnic politics. Speaking to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 25, 1998, he urged the international body to confront the abuses in the context of ethnic and civil conflict in the former Yugoslavia, urging the international community to not fail in its response. He called for immediate access by international monitors of Human Rights Commission in Kosovo at that time.
“The international community must not tolerate the brutal use of force as a means for solving domestic problems. We believe that the leaders of the former Republic of Yugoslavia must enter into a real dialogue on the future of Kosovo. Moreover, full and immediate access to Kosovo by representatives and rapporteurs of the Human Rights Commission is imperative,” remarked Ambassador Richardson.
Human rights remained at the core of his work through the end. The Center for Global Engagement states that he forged an identity as an unofficial diplomatic troubleshooter. He traveled the globe negotiating the release of hostages and American servicemen from North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and Sudan and bargained with the US adversaries including Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It was a role that Richardson relished, once describing himself as “the informal undersecretary for thugs.”
“He helped secure the 2021 release of American journalist Danny Fenster from a Myanmar prison and this year negotiated the freedom of Taylot Dudley who crossed the border from Poland into Russia. He flew to Moscow for a meeting with Russian government officials in the months before the release last year of Marine veteran Trevor Reed in a prisoner swap and also worked on the cases of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star freed by Moscow last year, and Michael White, a Navy veteran freed by Iran in 2020.”
William Blaine Richardson was born in Pasadena, California, but grew up in Mexico City with a Mexican mother and an American father, a U.S. bank executive. He attended prep school in Massachusetts and was a star baseball player. He later went to Tufts University and pursued its graduate school in International Relations, earning a Master’s Degree in international affairs. Richardson moved to New Mexico in 1978 after working as a Capitol Hill staffer. He wanted to run for political office and said New Mexico, with its Hispanic roots, seemed like a good place.