SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Friends and admirers of former Gov. Bill Richardson are mourning the hard-charging politician whose career spanned the globe, from mountain villages of northern New Mexico as a youthful congressman, to the United Nations and a litany of countries on unofficial diplomatic missions that often helped free imprisoned Americans.
Richardson’s casket was scheduled to lie in state Wednesday in the rotunda of the New Mexico Statehouse astride a giant inlay of the New Mexico state seal and an ancient Zia Pueblo symbol of the sun.
Richardson died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts, earlier this month at age 75.
Final memorials and funeral services were scheduled in Santa Fe, the state capital city where Richardson served two terms as governor starting in 2003 and is still remembered for innate political skills, ambition and an ability to both clash and reconcile with rivals.
“He admired legislators who showed spunk and integrity and didn’t give in to his ‘my way or the highway,'” tactics, said state Rep. Miguel Trujillo of Albuquerque, who led a House committee on labor during Richardson’s tenure as state governor.
Former state House speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe witnessed Richardson’s evolution from congressman to U.S. diplomat, Cabinet secretary and then state governor. He said Richardson mentored younger people at every step.
“He was also a hard-charging person,” Egolf said of Richardson. “If he disagreed with somebody who was his friend, he wouldn’t back down, he would mix it up. … But he always came back around and said, ‘It’s over. … He’d shake your hand and move forward.”
William Blaine Richardson was born in Pasadena, California, but grew up in Mexico City with a Mexican mother and an American father who was a U.S. bank executive. He attended prep school in Massachusetts, earned degrees in international studies from Tufts University and worded as a Capital Hill staffer before moving to New Mexico in 1978.
The state’s Hispanic heritage was a good fit as Richardson campaigned for Congress and won his second bid in 1982 for a newly created district spanning northern New Mexico.
He resigned from Congress in 1997 to join President Bill Clinton’s administration as U.N. ambassador and became secretary of energy in 1998. Richardson later sought the 2008 Democratic nomination for president but dropped out after lackluster finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
In an interview with The Associated Press in August, Richardson said he was proud of the work he had done to free dozens of people over the years and of his advocacy for the Navajo Nation.
Funeral services were scheduled for Thursday at Santa Fe’s downtown Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.