Navajo Code Talker, New Mexico State Senator John Pinto, 94, Walks On

Senator John Pinto receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Navajo Technical University on May 17, 2019.

Published May 24, 2019

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Longtime New Mexico state Senator John Pinto walked on this morning, Friday, May 24, 2019. Senator Pinto served as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II. With his passing, the Navajo Nation and Indian Country is mourning the second Code Talker to walk on this month. Two weeks ago, Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye, Sr. passed away. Just last week on May 17, 2019, Senator Pinto was presented an honorary doctorate degree from Navajo Technical University. Senator Pinto was 94.

Elected to the New Mexico Legislature in 1977, Senator Pinto is viewed as the  longest serving American Indian legislators in U.S. history and represented the District 3, which includes the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, 24th Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon, and Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne, issued the following statements upon the passing of New Mexico State Sen. John Pinto:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham: “John Pinto’s towering legacy stretches far beyond the borders of New Mexico, and his loss will be felt across not only this nation but the world. A Marine and Navajo Code Talker, he played a crucial role in winning the Second World War, preserving freedoms for Americans and many more people worldwide. The debt we owe for that service, and the service of all Code Talkers, can never be repaid. A senator for more than 40 years, he represented his constituents with grace, wisdom and tenacity. Through the relationships he built and respect he earned, he was able to secure innumerable crucial investments for New Mexico communities, in particular Native communities. His record of service is unblemished, and his unwavering commitment to his people will forever serve as a shining example. I will miss his good humor, and I offer my deepest condolences to his loved ones, his family and friends.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez: “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 Diné warrior who served our country as a Navajo Code Talker and in the New Mexico State Senate for many years. 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 humor, and his love and compassion for the Navajo people. We will miss hearing and seeing him sing “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.”

24th Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon: In a life dedicated to service, Senator Pinto exhibited a compassion and warmth for all whom he touched. While his contributions to the Navajo People and the citizens of New Mexico are too numerous to list, the impact he made in the soul of the Navajo People and New Mexico citizens as a leader will continue for generations. Thank you, Senator Pinto, for your devotion to the betterment of your constituents and the sacrifices you made for your country.

Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne: We have truly lost a legendary man. Senator Pinto was one of the Navajo people’s most honored and respected men, not only in modern times but of all time. His service to our people was unsurpassable having been a Navajo Code Talker and the longest serving state Senator in New Mexico. A man who fought for his people, his efforts most recently brought state funds to support the building of justice centers for our Navajo Nation. We will continue to reap the benefits of his service through all that he brought to our nation. Our people cannot thank him enough for a lifetime of service. Rest well, Senator Pinto, for you have earned it. The governor ordered all state flags to half-staff effective immediately.

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