SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson died Tuesday night after battling brain cancer, officials said.
A statement released by Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings said Richardson died at about 9 p.m. surrounded by family and friends at his home. He was 69.
Governor Kate Brown has ordered all flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sundown Wednesday. Another flag order will be issued the day of his interment.
"Dan and I are saddened to hear this news today. Our hearts are with Secretary of State Richardson's family, friends, and fellow lawmakers today," Brown said. "Regardless of what side of the aisle his colleagues sat on, we all knew Dennis' kind heart guided his career of service to the people of Oregon. His reputation for perseverance not only guided him through the fight with cancer, it also gave us all reassurance that he was fighting cancer with the same determination he brought to work every day."
Richardson became secretary of state in January 2017. He served as a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam and had a 30-year legal career before spending 19 years in public service.
Cummings said in his time as secretary of state, Richardson worked to improve the program business practices of Audits, Elections, Archives, Corporations and Small Businesses, and the three Administrative Services Divisions of the agency.
Richardson believed in “transparency, accountability, and integrity,” Cummings said. And his work ethic inspired staff to give their all.
His motto was “Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus”: Having been given much, what will you give in return?
Cummings said Richardson leaves behind a legacy of doing what’s right for the people.
Oregon Department of State Lands Director Vicki Walker said Richardson sought to preserve Oregon’s Common School Fund legacy on the State Land Board, advocating for Oregonians and public schools. Walker also commended Richardson’s expectations of accountability, which raised the bar for state government.
Many other state officials have released statements in the wake of Richardson’s death.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dennis Richardson. I will always have fond memories of serving with Dennis in the state legislature, and tremendous appreciation for his dedication to serving our state. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Rest in peace, Mr. Secretary.”
House Speaker Tina Kotek:
“I am saddened by the passing of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. He was a man of integrity and a dedicated public servant. Secretary Richardson lived and served with distinction. My heart goes out to his family during this difficult time.”
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick:
“Dennis Richardson was a kind and decent man. He served his country with distinction in the military. He served his community of Southern Oregon and the State of Oregon with integrity and dedication. I had the pleasure of serving with Secretary Richardson in the Legislature for many years. He loved this state and we will miss him.”
Treasurer Tobias Read:
“I am saddened to hear of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s passing last night. Richardson served his country and Oregonians as a member of the armed forces in Vietnam, and in public office. More importantly, he was devoted to his family who loved and supported him at every step of the way. Although we did not always agree politically, I had respect for the diligence and the energy he brought to his work. Oregon has lost an honorable public servant. My thoughts are with Cathy Richardson, his family and friends.”
Richardson leaves behind nine children and 31 grandchildren.
The Oregon Constitution requires that Brown appoint a new secretary of state, which she will do in the coming weeks. Brown said that she will consider appointees from the Republican party who commit to not entering the 2020 election for Secretary of State, as she did in 2015 when selecting her own successor.