Former New Mexico Governor, United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson Dead at 75

CNN confirmed that Richardson died in his sleep at his summer home in Massachusetts on Friday

<p>Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty </p> Bill Richardson

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty

Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and a United Nations ambassador, has died. He was 75.

Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which was founded by Richardson, confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE that the former politician died in his sleep at his summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Friday. The cause of death was not disclosed.

“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. "There was no person that Governor Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom. The world has lost a champion for those held unjustly abroad, and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend.”

<p>Carlos Alvarez/Getty</p> Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson died Friday at age 75.

Carlos Alvarez/Getty

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson died Friday at age 75.

Related: Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson Going to Russia to Help Effort to Free Brittney Griner: Report

Calling Richardson a “patriot and true original,” President Joe Biden said in a statement to CNN, “Over the years, I saw firsthand his passion for politics, love for America, and unflagging belief that, with respect and good faith, people can come together across any difference, no matter how vast.”

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a joint statement to CNN, in which they remembered Richardson as “a devoted public servant and skilled diplomat.”

“Whether in an official or unofficial capacity, he was a masterful and persistent negotiator who helped make our world more secure and won the release of many individuals held unjustly abroad,” the Clintons said.

In the span of Richardson's decades-long political career, the diplomat was nominated for four Nobel Peace Prizes and successfully negotiated the release of hostages in North Korea, Cuba, Iraq and the Sudan.

Related: Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson Meeting with Russian Leadership to Discuss Brittney Griner

His career in public service began in 1982 when he was appointed to the third district of New Mexico in the House of Representatives and worked as a congressman until 1996. A year later, he was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, before serving under former President Clinton, 77, as the Secretary of Energy from 1998 to 2000.

In 2003, Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico, a role in which he sought to improve access to renewable energy, education, immigration and civil rights, as well as transportation via the public commuter rail line known as the Rail Runner. During his two terms, he also taught at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.

Richardson ran for president under the Democratic nomination in 2008 before later dropping out and retiring from public service in 2011, according to his biography on the Richardson Center website.

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That same year, he founded the Richardson Center, which “promotes global peace and dialogue” through diplomacy, per the organization’s mission statement. He also launched the Foundation to Preserve New Mexico Wildlife with actor and environmentalist Robert Redford to prevent the slaughter of wild horses.

In addition to sitting on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, Richardson went on to publish three books and appear on numerous televised political programs.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, who he married in 1972, and his daughter, Heather Blaine.

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