Posted at: 12/19/2012 6:55 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Photo: Ben Lujan
Flags are at half-staff across New Mexico Wednesday evening in memory of Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, who passed away Tuesday night at the age of 77.
Lujan lost a three year battle with lung cancer, dying late Tuesday night at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe.
People who worked with Lujan over the years remember a strong leader with a gentler side.
Lujan was a tough little guy from Pojaque with a Conway Twitty haircut and a firm grip on the political hardball. the old iron worker did have an iron fist when he served as speaker for 12 years, including Bill Richardson's two terms as governor. The two democrats were close allies.
"So this was a guy that was a driver. He was strong, he was somebody with enormous, enormous, personal integrity, the best of Northern New Mexico," Richardson recalled.
But there was more to Ben Lujan. Just ask the ones who worked with him night and day.
"He had a really gentle side to him also that a lot of people didn't know," House Chief Clerk Stephen Arias said. "I don't know if I've ever known a legislator in the 46 years that I've worked here that has been more focused on his responsibilities."
"In any discussion, you could see his mind moving and he'd be three or four steps down the line and I think he just had incredible intellect. He was stern, he was tough, but just a gentle person," Regis Pecos, House Chief of Staff, said.
Lejan had deep family ties all over northern New Mexico. His son, Ben Ray Lujan, represents the region in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ben Ray, and the speaker's other children, were with him when he died, along with his grandchildren and his wife Carmen.
No details are available yet on Lujan's funeral arrangements.