House Speaker Ben Lujan was eulogized during a memorial service today as a strong-willed but humble leader who retained strong ties to rural northern New Mexico communities even as he became one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
More than 400 people, including numerous current and former state officials, crowded into the Capitol rotunda to pay their respects to the family of Lujan, who died Dec. 18 after a long battle with lung cancer.
“He was a small, gentle guy but a political giant who will go down in history as perhaps New Mexico’s greatest legislator,” said former Gov. Bill Richardson, who worked closely with Lujan during his two terms as governor.
Lujan, a Democrat from Nambe, served in the Legislature for 38 years and as House speaker for the past 12 years. He announced on the first day of the 2012 legislative session that he was battling cancer and would not seek re-election.
House Majority Leader Ken Martinez of Grants, who is expected to be Lujan’s successor as House speaker, said Lujan came from a family of hard workers but also had a keen intellect.
“He could reduce to very simple terms the most complex issues we were facing,” Martinez said.
Several Republican lawmakers also spoke at today’s memorial service, including House Minority Leader Donald Bratton of Hobbs, who said while he and Lujan often disagreed on political manners, the disagreements were always courteous and respectful.
Lujan will be buried Saturday at the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Cemetery in Nambe, after a Mass of the Resurrection at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. For more details on scheduled services, click here.
And click here to read my colleague Deborah Baker’s story about Lujan’s life.