President Joe Biden on Friday reflected on the passing of James Hormel, the first openly gay person to serve as a United States ambassador.

Former President Bill Clinton in 1997 appointed Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Conservatives in the Senate blocked Hormel's confirmation because of his sexual orientation. In 1999, Clinton bypassed the Senate and installed Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg via a recess appointment.

Hormel, also a prolific philanthropist, died Friday at the age of 88.

“I am proud that my Administration is staffed by incredible LGBTQ+ public servants at all levels, including in my Cabinet and nominees for Ambassador-level appointments,” Biden said in a statement. “Ambassador Hormel’s bravery paved the way for all of them to serve, just as he hoped it would.”

“I remember well the historic fight for his appointment, and I was proud to support his confirmation,” Biden said. “He helped shine a national spotlight on the truth that no LGBTQ+ individual should be denied their basic human rights, and that the United States should be the global leader in that fight.”

Hormel, an heir to Hormel Foods, helped found the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights organization. He was also known for his HIV advocacy work.

“Jim Hormel was a giant in the movement for LGBTQ+ equality,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “He was a history-making and barrier-breaking diplomat who showed future generations of LGBTQ+ young people that there is no limit to what they can achieve. Jim also understood the power of his platform and the importance of organizing to make change.”

“His commitment in helping to found the Human Rights Campaign and his dedication to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic ensure that the contributions he made will ripple out for years and decades to come. He was a tremendously valued member of the Human Rights Campaign community and his memory will live on at this organization and others that have made up his life’s work. Our hearts are with Jim’s husband, family and friends as we collectively mourn the loss of such a profound advocate and celebrate his decorated and impactful life,” David said.

Hormel is survived by his husband Michael and his children Alison, Anne, Elizabeth, James Jr., and Sarah.