Former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca died on Wednesday at the age of 88.
The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported on the death.
Apodaca was New Mexico’s 24th governor, and served from 1975 to 1979. Before winning the governorship, Apodaca was a four-term state senator, when state senate terms were only two years.
Apodaca was a fierce advocate for Hispanic representation in politics.
When Apodaca won the governorship in the mid-70s, he was New Mexico’s first Hispanic governor since New Mexico became a state and was the first Hispanic governor in any state since 1918, per the National Governors Association.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of former Governor Jerry Apodaca,” Lujan Grisham said. “As the state’s first Hispanic governor, he paved the way for more New Mexicans to enter public office, making sure that our diversity is better represented in our leadership. He was also a stalwart advocate for the rights of patients and was instrumental in the creation of the state’s first medical cannabis program nearly half a century ago.”
At the time, governors could not seek two consecutive terms and when Apodaca left office, he joined the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under President Jimmy Carter.
He also ran for U.S. Senate, but lost in the 1982 Democratic primary to Jeff Bingaman, who went on to serve five terms.
In 1998, Apodaca again ran for governor, but lost in the Democratic primary.
A well-respected former governor, the state named the New Mexico Department of Education building in Santa Fe after Apodaca in 2004.