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Subject: Edwin Mechem, Former Senator and Four-Time New Mexico Governor

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Date Posted: November 28, 2002 9:35:22 EDT

Edwin L. Mechem, New Mexico's only four-term governor, a former U.S. senator and a federal judge, died Wednesday at his home in Albuquerque. He was 90.

Mechem, a Republican known as "Big Ed" in his office-seeking days, served as a judge for more than 30 years and continued to work at home until his death. His family said he had a heart condition that had gotten worse recently.

"He was still a senior judge. His health didn't allow him to go down to the office very often but his court clerk brought him his work and when he felt well enough we would go down there," said Josephine Mechem, his wife of 27 years.

New Mexico governors were elected to two-year terms when Mechem served, from 1951-54, 1957-58 and 1961-62.

An Alamogordo native, Mechem graduated from New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University, and earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas. He went into practice with his father and then joined the FBI during World War II.

He returned to his law practice after the war and tried his hand at politics at a time when the state's Republican Party had difficulty even finding candidates.

Mechem won a state House seat in 1946. Four years later, he upset Democrat John Miles to become New Mexico's first Republican governor in 20 years.

He resigned as governor in November 1962 to complete the U.S. Senate term of Democrat Dennis Chavez, who had died. Mechem lost his bid to retain the seat in 1964.

In 1970 he was appointed as a U.S. district judge by President Nixon, who called Mechem "Mr. Republican." Mechem took senior status as a judge in 1982, on his 70th birthday.

Among his rulings, Judge Mechem found age discrimination at the predecessor to Sandia National Laboratories and sex discrimination at the Albuquerque Police Department.

He also ruled that handicapped children in Albuquerque were being denied free and appropriate public education; that the Socorro County Jail had been indifferent to the medical needs of a prisoner who died in their custody; and that state game and fish laws were not valid on Indian lands.

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