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William Blaine ("Bill") Richardson, III was born on November 15, 1947 in Pasadena, CA. He is the son of William Blaine Richardson Jr., of New England Yankee and Mexican descent, an American Citibank executive who grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, lived and worked in Mexico City, and María Luisa López-Collada Márquez, the Mexican daughter of a Spanish father from Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain and a Mexican mother. Richardson's father was born in Nicaragua, and just before Richardson was born, his mother went to Pasadena (CA) to give birth because, as Richardson explained, “My father had a complex about not having been born in the United States.” Richardson, a U.S. citizen by birthright, was raised during his childhood in Mexico City. Richardson served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1983–97), as a member of President Bill Clinton's cabinet (1997–2001) and as governor of New Mexico (2003–2010). He was raised Roman Catholic.
At age 13, his father sent him to Massachusetts to attend the elite Middlesex School in Concord where he played baseball as a pitcher. He entered Tufts University (1966) where he earned a Bachelor's degree (1970), majoring in French and political science, and became a president and brother of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He went on to earn a master's degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (1971). While still in high school, he met his future wife, Barbara Flavin. They married in 1972.
After graduation, the Richardsons moved to Washington, DC and Bill spent much of the next decade in various staff positions within the U.S. government. In 1978 they moved to New Mexico. Richardson rose quickly within the state's Democratic Party ranks, and he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980. Fortunes changed two years later when he was elected to the first of seven consecutive terms.
His eighth term was cut short in 1997 when he accepted an appointment by President Bill Clinton to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served in Clinton Administration as Secretary of Energy from 1998 to 2001 and worked as a private consultant before returning to New Mexico in 2002.
Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002 and retained his position with a landslide victory in 2006. His 2008 presidential campaign focused on many of the same issues that he had faced throughout his political career—the economy, energy and the environment, foreign policy, education and immigration reform. However, Richardson failed to place higher than fourth in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and he withdrew from the race in January 2008. Later that year President-elect Barack Obama selected Richardson to serve as Secretary of Commerce, a post that requires Senate confirmation. Soon after, Richardson asked to be withdrawn from consideration for the position because of an investigation into whether his administration had awarded state contracts to one of his political donors. Richardson chronicled his life and views in Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life (2005).
In his book and numerous interviews, Richardson remarked upon his admission into the Guinness Book of World Records (Most Handshakes, beating former record holder, President Teddy Roosevelt):
"In a political race, I am almost reflexively paranoid. It does not matter what the polls show. You have to work every minute of every day as hard as you can and leave nothing to chance. We raised $7.5 million, and my finance chair said he we took in as much from Republicans as he did from Democrats. Over the course of the campaign, I probably shook a hand for every one of those dollars. In fact, I shattered Theodore Roosevelt's long-standing record for handshaking and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. On New Year's Day, 1908, Roosevelt squeezed 8.513 hands; on September 16, 2002, I touched 13,392 in eight hours.
Richardson is credited for revitalizing the film industry in New Mexico, bringing many major motion pictures to the state with lucrative tax incentives. Also under his administration, the “Rail Runner,” an intrastate light rail system started to serve people between the areas of Belen and the State Capitol, Santa Fe.
Governor Richardson left office on January 1, 2011 and is succeeded by Susana Martinez as governor.
Richardson, Bill, and Michael Ruby. Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life. New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 2005.
"Bill Richardson Nominated for Nobel Prize: 5th Peace Prize Nomination for Democratic Candidate Was Sent In By Tennessee Representative." Associated Press, CBS News, Nov 15, 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/15/politics/main3506361.shtml (accessed Jan 18, 2011).
Achenbach, Joel. "The Pro Familia Candidate." Washington Post 21 May 2007.
Baker, Deborah (for the Associated Press). "New Mexico Works For Its 'Tamalewood' Title." Los Angeles Times 4 Apr 2008.
"Whole Lotta Shaking." Tufts E-news,
http://www.enews.tufts.edu/stories/1042/2002/09/16/WholeLottaShaking (accessed Jan 18, 2011.)
"Bill Richardson," Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1337028/Bill-Richardson (accessed Jan 18, 2011).
"Bill Richardson," Biography.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Bill-Richardson-38076 (accessed Jan 20, 2011).
"Bill Richardson," Tufts University, http://www.enews.tufts.edu. (accessed Jan 19, 2011) Alumni Biography: Member, Board of Directors: Peregrine Systems, Inc; Valero Energy Corporation; Diamond Offshore Drilling. Senior Managing Director: Kissinger McLarty Associates. Adjunct professor: Kennedy School of Government; lecturer, Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. Recipient: U.S. Institute of Peace Senior Fellowship.