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Manuel Lujan Jr. dies at age 90


April 28, 2019

SANTA FE — Manuel Lujan Jr., a New Mexico native son who rose to be a longtime Republican congressman and U.S. Interior secretary, has died at age 90, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office confirmed.

Lujan Jr., who came from a prominent Santa Fe political family, held New Mexico's 1st Congressional District seat from 1969 through 1988. He was the first Hispanic Republican to join the Congressional Hispanic Congress.

He was later appointed interior secretary by then-President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and held the position for nearly four years.

Lujan Jr. faced scrutiny in the high-profile Cabinet position, and said after leaving the office in 1993 that "no one is satisfied."

"If you do something that's pro-development, you get the environmental groups against you, and if you do something that's pro-environmental, you get the industry groups after you," he told the Associated Press at the time. "What I tried to do — and I think I was successful in doing — was to bring a balance between the use of resources on public lands and environmental concerns."

Lujan Jr., whose family owns an insurance agency in Albuquerque, is a distant cousin of Lujan Grisham, who was elected governor last year.

In a statement, the Democratic governor described Lujan Jr. as the "picture of a statesman."

"In a lifetime of public service, over the course of ten congressional terms and four years as secretary of the interior, he fought for his constituents, striving for balance between competing interests, never forgetting that New Mexicans' collective best interest comes first," Lujan Grisham said.

"Over the years, it was frequently assumed Manuel was my uncle," she added. "He wasn't, but he always treated me like his favorite niece. He was a gentleman; he was generous; he was a thoughtful public servant. I will miss him, and I know New Mexico will long cherish his memory."

Lujan Grisham also ordered all state flags to be flow at half-staff in honor of Lujan Jr.

New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce described Lujan Jr. as a "trailblazing Republican" and "one of the finest statesman" to ever represent New Mexico in Congress.

As interior secretary, Lujan Jr.'s "expert knowledge of western land management and energy issues along with his integrity and competence made him one of the finest people to ever hold this office," Pearce said.

Stuart Ingle, Senate Minority leader for the New Mexico Legislature, said, “ “It has always been a source of pride for us here in New Mexico that the high and important office of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior was held by a New Mexican under the George H.W. Bush administration. As we reflect on the tremendous public service of the late congressman and secretary of the Interior, Manuel Lujan, Jr., I believe we can honor him in a very fine and respectable way by trying to emulate his lifelong dedication to making the Land of Enchantment a better place for all of us.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., also not related to Lujan Jr., released a statement that memorialized the late congressman as a reliable advocate for New Mexicans.

"As one of the most prominent Hispanics to serve at the federal level, he opened the door for many others to step forward and make a difference," Luján said. "I am praying for his family and loved ones."


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