Carl Levin, Michigan's Longest-Serving Senator, Dead at 87

·3 min read
Carl Levin
Carl Levin

Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Sen. Carl Levin has died. The longtime Democratic lawmaker was 87.

Levin, who was Michigan's longest-serving U.S. senator, served six terms over the course of his 36-year career. His death was announced by his family and the Levin Center at Wayne State University's law school on Thursday evening, per the Associated Press.

"We are all devastated by his loss," the statement said. "But we are filled with gratitude for all of the support that Carl received throughout his extraordinary life and career, enabling him to touch so many people and accomplish so much good."

Levin graduated from Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School,

A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, Levin worked for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and as a public defender in his hometown of Detroit before being elected to the Detroit City Council in 1969, later winning a Senate seat in 1978.

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In the legislative house, Levin's focused on tax reform and boosting American manufacturing jobs. He was also known for his work as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a role he held for nine years. During his tenure, Levin raised pay for military members and disagreed with the majority of his colleagues on the Iraq War, voting against sending U.S. troops overseas 2002.

Two years after the vote, Levin said President George W. Bush's administration had "written the book on how to mismanage a war." He also spoke out against President Ronald Reagan's collection of nuclear weapons, citing the need for conventional weapons for the military.

The senator earned the praise of his colleagues for his down-to-earth demeanor and collaborative nature. In 2006, Time magazine ranked Levin as one of the nation's 10 best senators.

Levin left Congress in 2015 at age 81 after deciding not to seek a seventh term. Though he was no longer a Senator, Levin remained politically active, joining the private law firm Honigman Attorneys and Counselors and later offering his endorsement to President Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election.

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In March, Levin published reflected on his life and times in the memoir Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate, and the Navy christened a destroyer after him in honor of his public service.

Colleagues and friends have shared their condolences following the news of his death, with Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes saying Levin stood for the best of the Wolverine State.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sen. Carl Levin. He was a living legend, always putting the needs of Michiganders ahead of his own," Barnes said in a statement. "Known worldwide as a defender of peace and a champion for good, he represented the best of Michigan."

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) remembered Levin with a statement of his own on Twitter, recalling his daily exchanges with the lawmaker a young congressional intern, while he worked at a gym by the Capitol.

"Every morning, I checked out a racquetball court to Carl and his brother, Rep. Sandy Levin. I was a 20-year-old nobody, but Carl was always so kind & greeted me by name each morning," he wrote.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette remembered Levin as "a gentleman, a fighter for Michigan and a wise voice in the Senate."

Levin is survived by his wife, Barbara; his three daughters, Kate, Laura and Erica; and his grandchildren.

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