Former Diplomat Bill Richardson Dead at 75

( – Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has died at age 75. Richardson, who also sat in the House for 14 years, was a senior figure in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He was also known for negotiating the release of Americans held hostage by rogue states.

William Blaine Richardson III was born in Pasadena, California on November 15, 1947. He spent much of his early life in Mexico City, where his father worked. At 13 he returned to the US to attend a prep school in Massachusetts, then went on to get a degree from Tufts University. As a student, he played baseball and was scouted by several pro teams.

Republican to Democrat

Richardson launched his political career soon after leaving college when he worked for a Massachusetts congressman — a Republican one. In 1974, he moved to the Nixon administration’s State Department to work in congressional relations; two years later he became a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In 1980, Richardson made his own first congressional run, but now he’d changed allegiance to the Democrats. That year he lost to the Republican incumbent, but in 1982 he was elected as the representative for New Mexico’s Third District. Later he became a deputy majority whip and was friendly with President Bill Clinton.

Specialist in Hostage Negotiations

In 1995, Richardson traveled to Baghdad to negotiate the release of two US engineers who had wandered across the border into Iraq and been detained. The next year he helped get another American released from North Korea and arranged a pardon for one sentenced to death for smuggling heroin in Bangladesh.

These missions earned him three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. After his retirement from politics, he negotiated the release of several more Americans, including basketball player Brittney Griner and US Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed, who were both imprisoned in Russia.

Later in his career, Richardson served as the US ambassador to the United Nations, and then as the Clinton administration’s energy secretary. In 2002, he was elected governor of New Mexico, holding that office until 2011. He ran — unsuccessfully — for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Richardson was considered for a cabinet position after President Obama’s election but withdrew his name.

Bill Richardson kept working into his 70s; he was 74 when he negotiated Griner’s release. He lived in New Mexico but also kept a summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts; he died there on September 1. A spokesman said he went peacefully in his sleep.

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