Henry Rodgers on May 25, 2019

One of the last living World War II Navajo Code talkers and a long-serving New Mexico state senator died Friday at age 94.

John Pinto, a marine, reportedly had been battling several different illnesses throughout the past years. Pinto was born in Lupton, Ariz., on Dec. 15, 1924. After serving as a Code Talker in World War II, Pinto graduated from the University of New Mexico’s College of Education at age 39.

In 1976 Pinto was elected to serve in the New Mexico state Senate, where he served for over 40 years. He also was one of the Code Talkers who received a Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.

“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,” New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Pinto was also well known for singing the “Potato Song” on the Senate floor, which was a Navajo song about a potato and harvested in the summer.

One of Pinto’s last public appearances was at a commencement ceremony for Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico, where he received the school’s first honorary doctoral degree, USA Today reported.

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