Sen. John Pinto of Gallup has passed away at the age of 94.
According to a press release from the City of Gallup, officers from the Gallup Police Department were dispatched to a residence Friday, May 24 around 9:21 a.m. in response to a man who was not breathing. The male was later identified as Senator John Pinto.
Sen. Pinto was taken to the Gallup Indian Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The senator’s family was present with him during the incident.
Pinto was one of the longest serving Native American legislators in U.S. history and represented the District 3 including Navajo Nation and a large portion of San Juan County. He served in the U.S. Marines as a Navajo Code Talker before working as a teacher.
The family of Sen. John Pinto issued a statement Friday:
“The family of Senator John D. Pinto is saddened to announce his passing. He passed away the morning of May 24 in Gallup, New Mexico surrounded by his family. He dedicated his life to public service. He was a Marine, Navajo Code Talker, longtime New Mexico State Senator, and family man. He worked tirelessly throughout his lifetime to serve the Dine people. The family would like to express their gratitude to his constituents and fellow legislators for allowing him to serve; it is what truly made him happy. He was 94 years old.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also issued a statement:
“On behalf of the Navajo people, we offer our condolences and prayers for the family, friends, colleagues, and many others who had the honor of knowing Sen. John Pinto. Words cannot express the sadness we feel for the loss of a great Dine warrior who served our country as a Navajo Code Talker and in the New Mexico State Senate for many yeas. He dedicated his life to helping others and he changed the lives of so many people for the better. We will miss his smile, his humour, and his love and compassion for the Navajo people. We will miss hearing and singing ‘The Potato Song’ that brought smiles to so many faces over the years. On behalf of Vice President Myron Lizer, myself, and our families, we offer our thoughts and condolences. May we take comfort in knowing that Honorable John Pinto is now with our Creator.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff. Gallup police are currently investigating.