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N.M. Sen. John Pinto passes at 94


The New Mexico Legislature’s longest-serving senator has died at 94.

Courtesy photo

New Mexico State Senator John Pinto talks on “Senator John Pinto Day,” as proclaimed by the Senate, on Feb. 14, 2018.

Sen. John Pinto, a former Navajo Code Talker, passed away in his home in Gallup about 9:21 a.m., according to a press release from the Gallup Police Department.

Officers had responded to the home in response to a call about a man not breathing.

Pinto had not been ill and in fact had accepted an honorary doctorate from Navajo Technical University just a week earlier.

Freshman New Mexico State Rep. Anthony Allison, who like Pinto is originally from Tohatchi, New Mexico, said the elder senator took him under his wing after he was elected and introduced him around.

“He would say, ‘Hey, little brother, let’s go see the governor!” Allison recalled.

He said the last time he saw Pinto, about a week and a half ago, Pinto had said he was feeling fine and was ready to start campaigning for the next election cycle.

Pinto had been a member of the state legislature since 1977.

He was famous for funneling state dollars to the Navajo Nation, and according to Allison, his proudest accomplishment was widening dangerous State Highway 491 between Gallup and Shiprock.

Legislation was passed in 2005 to name the highway after Pinto, but according to Allison, the signs were never installed.

“I’m going to make sure that happens in the next session,” he said.

Allison said Pinto was universally respected in the legislature.

“They did what he wanted to do,” he said. “Nobody ever questioned where he was coming from or anything.”

Pinto’s mind was sharp until the end, Allison said. “Once he met you once, he would remember your name and everything about you.”

The family issued the following statement:

“The family of Doctor Senator John D. Pinto is saddened to announce his passing. He passed away the morning of May 24th 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.”

Funeral services have not yet been announced.

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About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at


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