Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken dies at age 97

William Milliken dies at age 97
William Milliken dies at age 97

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Michigan's longest-serving governor, William G. Milliken, has died at the age of 97.

A family spokesman, Jack Lessenberry, said Milliken died Friday at his home in Traverse City, according to the Associated Press.

As Michigan governors go, Milliken was one of the most beloved. He was a centrist Republican who dealt with many of the same problems in the late '60s and '70s Michigan's governors battled with most recently.

Politicians react: Remembering former Michigan Gov. William Milliken

He shepherded the state through tough times and came out on the other side with a far better public reputation than he had in office. In many ways Milliken was destined for politics. He was born March 16, 1922, in Traverse City. His family ran a clothing store and his grandfather and father served as state senators. His mother became the first woman ever elected to Traverse City public office.

In 1942 Milliken enlisted and wound up in the Army Air Corps. He flew 50 dangerous missions as a waist gunner over Europe. He was wounded and once had to bail out over Italy and survived two crash landings.

For that he received the Purple Heart and Silver and Bronze stars. After the war he married Helen Wallbank. They had two children.

By 1965 Milliken became lieutenant governor to Gov. George Romney. Romney went to Washington as President Richard Nixon's housing and urban development secretary so Milliken took the governor's chair in early 1969.

He won three elections but didn't run again in 1982, retiring from politics at age 59.

Milliken had victories, helping bring 1980 Republican convention to Detroit, the 1982 Super Bowl, chaired the National Governors Association and championed the nation's toughest bottle deposit bill.

Watch the entire obituary in the video above.


About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.