Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson dies at 75

Then-Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico delivers remarks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver in August 2008. Richardson has died at age 75, his organization announced Saturday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, Democratic presidential candidate and skilled international diplomat, has died in Chatham, Mass., his organization announced Saturday. He was 75.

Richardson "passed away peacefully in his sleep last night," the Richardson Center for Global Engagement said in statement issued to media outlets.

"He lived his entire life in the service of others -- including both his time in government and his subsequent career helping free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad," the statement said.

Citing his passion for securing prisoner releases and mediating international conflicts in both official and non-official capacities, the group said, "There was no person that Gov. Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom. The world has lost a champion of for those held unjustly abroad and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend."

Richardson first attained elected office as the first representative from New Mexico's then-newly created 3rd Congressional District in 1983 and remained in Congress until 1997. He served as the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus between 1983 and 1985.

President Bill Clinton appointed Richardson to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations 1997, and later appointed him Secretary of Energy.

After leaving that post in 2001, Richardson went on to win the 2002 New Mexico gubernatorial election. He announced his presidential run in 2007, but dropped out in early 2008.

After leaving public office, the former governor started the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which served as a non-official entry point for prisoner negotiations with nations that do not have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Richardson played a key role in freeing American student Otto Warmbier from captivity in North Korea in 2017, though Warmbier died shortly after returning to the United States.

In 2021, Richardson helped secure the release of journalist Danny Fenster from captivity in Myanmar.