Carl Levin, Former US Senator, Dies at 87

Carl Levin, Former US Senator, Dies at 87

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 29, 2021)

Former US Senator Carl Levin died Thursday at the age of 87. Levin, a Democrat, was elected to the US Senate in 1978 and served for 36 years.

Levin was born in Detroit and went to Harvard Law School. He worked as General Counsel of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1964-1967 and he served on Detroit City Council before running for US Senate in 1978.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer described many of the things that were important to Levin, stating:

“Senator Carl Levin was a champion for Michigan. His 36 year tenure in the United States Senate, the longest in state history, was marked by a tireless commitment to our auto industry, Great Lakes, and men and women in uniform. Carl paved the way for a safer planet, helped pass several nuclear weapons and missile treaties, and spoke out courageously against entering the war in Iraq. He made Michigan a safer and better place for our families, securing funds to create the Detroit Riverwalk and writing the bill that established Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Carl would often wear his glasses on the tip of his nose, but he saw the best in us. He saw what we were capable of when we came to the table as Michiganders, as Americans, to get things done. Carl devoted his life to public service, and it us up to us to follow his example. My thoughts are with his family, many of whom are lifelong public servants, including his brother, former Congressman Sander Levin and his nephew, Congressman Andy Levin. Carl, we miss you.”

The Middletown Press shares several of Levin’s accomplishments, including a 2002 investigation into Enron Corp that led “to a new federal law that requires executives to sign off on financial statements so they could be criminally liable for posting phony numbers.”  He was also a supporter of the auto industry, having “supported giving $25 billion in loan guarantees to General Motors and Chrysler.”  Levin also served as Chairperson of the Committee on Armed Services.

Nephew Andy Levin shared memories of his Uncle, saying:

Throughout my adult life, wherever I went in Michigan, from Copper Harbor to Monroe, I would run into people who would say, ‘I don’t always agree with Senator Levin, but I support him anyway because he is so genuine, he tells it straight and he follows through.’

Carl Levin personified integrity and the notion of putting the public good above self-interest. As he walked about the Capitol in a rumpled suit, almost always with a plain white shirt and pedestrian tie, carrying bulging files with the occasional paper flying away, Carl was the very picture of sober purpose and rectitude.

In truth, he wasn’t unfun. In fact, he often pierced tense situations with self-deprecating humor, and he privately shared incisive observations about others with staff and colleagues. But Carl was all about the work, and the great honor the people of Michigan had bestowed upon him with their votes and their trust. He did not seek to divine their views to be popular, but rather to study the issues and advance the people’s interest to the best of his ability. Uncle Carl met with more presidents, kings, queens and other important people than all but a few of us ever will. But he treated them all the same as he did a Detroit autoworker or a beet farmer in Michigan’s Thumb – with a full measure of dignity but no airs, ever ready to puncture self-importance, posturing, mendacity and avarice.

He was so well-prepared for every meeting, hearing, and conference that he challenged conventional boundaries between senator and staff. He was one of the most challenging senators to work for and one of the most rewarding. Challenging, because you had better know your business in detail, since he surely did. Rewarding, because he had authentic relationships with staff, treated them with deep respect, and was loyal to them.

Uncle Carl was above all a family man. No matter the pressing business he faced as a senator, he always centered Aunt Barbara, my cousins Kate, Laura and Erica and their families, devoted time to them and so obviously cherished them. And the way he loved and treated his family radiated out and served as a model for how he treated colleagues, staff, constituents, soldiers and the world. From my earliest memory to this moment, perhaps above all, he has defined with my dad how close two brothers, two siblings, two people can be. In the end, these two Jewish boys from Detroit, these grandsons of immigrants each served 36 years in Congress, 32 of them together, becoming by far the longest co-serving siblings in the 232-year history of this place. As heartbroken as we are in this moment, I feel so grateful to have experienced this love and legacy.

Others are sharing comments and memories as well, including County Commissioner Dave Coulter who said “Our state has lost a giant who will forever serve as the gold standard of public service. We have been blessed by a tremendous brother team and my deepest sympathy goes out to Sandy, Carl’s wife Barbara and the entire Levin family.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow said ““Senator Carl Levin was a champion for truth and justice and a tireless advocate for the people of Michigan. He always believed that our government could be a force for good, and he spent his career showing all of us how it’s done. Senator Levin was also my friend, and it was truly an honor to represent Michigan alongside him for 14 of the 36 years that he served in the Senate. Michigan was so fortunate to have him fighting for us. My heart goes out to his beloved Barbara, his brother and best friend Sandy, his nephew Andy, his wonderful daughters and all of his family.”

Among the many times visiting Ferndale, once was in 2012 to present a Purple Heart to veteran Tom Ducharme. Check out video of the ceremony below:

This story is a work in progress and will be updated as available.

Recommended:

Ferndale Veteran Receives Purple Heart (Oct. 15, 2012)

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