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Carl Levin (D-MI), Retired U.S. Senator, Dies

Carl Levin photo
Detroit Democrat Carl Levin represented Michigan in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 2015.

Updated on July 30, 10:16 a.m.

Retired Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin has died. The Detroit Democrat represented Michigan in the Senate from 1979 to his retirement in 2015.

Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator had a slightly rumpled, down-to-earth demeanor that helped him win over voters throughout his 36-year career, as did his staunch support for the hometown auto industry.

Despite his record tenure and status, he kept his role in perspective. At his direction, the portraits of all 38 senators who had served before or with him since Michigan’s statehood in 1837 were hung in his office conference room. Two empty spaces were reserved for future senators.

“I’m part of a long trail of people who have represented Michigan,” Levin said in 2008. “I’m just part of that history. The people coming after me ... can pick up where I leave off, whoever they might be.”

Earlier this year, Levin published a memoir in which he first announced his three-year fight with cancer.

In an April interview, Levin told WKAR News that his brand of bipartisanship in Washington was severely diminished, but was not gone forever. “I don’t think anything that’s useful is gone forever," he said. "I think it’s so obvious that the only way you can get things done is by compromise.”

Levin further expressed concern about the decline of bipartisanship in Washington, calling it “essential to governing, adding "you don’t have to give up your principals. It’s the only way, really, in difficult situations of helping to achieve those principals, or at least most of the principals. You’re not going to get everything you want. Nobody does in a diverse Democracy.”

The Harvard-educated attorney also was a respected voice on military issues, Levin chaired the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee for a total of more than nine years.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Levin a “champion for Michigan.”

“He saw what we were capable of when we came to the table as Michiganders, as Americans, to get things done,” she said. “Carl devoted his life to public service, and it us up to us to follow his example.”

Funeral plans have not been announced.

Carl Levin was 87. ?

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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