Leaders react to the death of former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin

Levin was 87 years old

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 file photo, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., attends a news conference about the release of a Pentagon report on sexual assault in the military, at the Capitol in Washington.  Former Sen. Carl Levin, a powerful voice for the military during his career as Michigans longest-serving U.S. senator, has died. The Democrat was 87. Levins family says Levin died Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 file photo, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., attends a news conference about the release of a Pentagon report on sexual assault in the military, at the Capitol in Washington. Former Sen. Carl Levin, a powerful voice for the military during his career as Michigans longest-serving U.S. senator, has died. The Democrat was 87. Levins family says Levin died Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Former Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest serving senator, has died.

He was 87 years old.

Read: Former Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest serving senator, dies at 87

Federal, state and local officials have issued the following statements in response to Levin’s death.

“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.”

Rep. Andy Levin

Read: Navy ship to be named after Sen. Carl Levin

Former Sen. Carl Levin dies at age 87
Former Sen. Carl Levin dies at age 87

“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.”

Oakland County Executive David Coulter

“Senator Levin was one of the finest leaders to have ever served the State of Michigan and our country.

“When I first began serving in Congress, I would often seek Senator Levin’s advice. His guidance was especially important to me as I succeeded him in the United States Senate. He was not only a mentor – he was a personal friend, who I looked up to as an extraordinary public servant. Senator Levin would always extend his hand to get things done for the betterment of our country – and today’s Congress would do well to follow his example of commonsense problem-solving.

“As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin focused on ensuring our military was equipped to address growing threats. As Chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, he held those in positions of authority accountable – especially those responsible for the Wall Street collapse and the ensuing economic recession.

“And – at his core – Senator Levin was a Michigan man, through and through. From his days on the Detroit City Council to the halls of the United States Senate, Senator Levin always had the well-being of Michiganders on his mind. He was a leader of unmatched character, principled leadership and integrity who will be remembered for his devotion to his family, our state and our country — and whose incredible impact was equaled by his humility.

“Colleen and I extend our deepest condolences to his loving wife Barbara, his daughters Kate, Laura, and Erica, his brother Sandy and to the entire Levin family.”

Sen. Gary Peters

“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.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Senator Carl Levin. He was a living legend, always putting the needs of Michiganders ahead of his own. Known world-wide as a fierce protector, a defender of peace, and a champion for good, Carl Levin represented the best of Michigan.

“Born and raised in Detroit, he understood and fought for the working class. His leadership, his steady hand, and his commitment to Democratic values carried Michigan and the entire country through some of our darkest days. Even after his 36-year career as a U.S. Senator came to an end, Carl never stopped being a voice for Michigan – he continued to be an active member of the Michigan Democratic Party and was always willing to offer a listening ear and just the right advice at just the right moment.

“We are forever grateful for the lifetime commitment that Carl Levin made to Michigan. His decision to serve changed the course of history for the better. It was an honor to spend time with the Senator. He will be deeply missed. Rest well, Senator. We will continue your good work.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes

“The entire Wayne State community is saddened to hear the news of Senator Carl Levin’s passing. He was a tremendous friend of the university, and it’s gratifying to know that his name will live on in perpetuity at the Levin Center.

"Senator Levin devoted his life to public service and was a staunch advocate of Michigan families, civil rights, protecting Michigan’s environment, Michigan’s men and women in the military, and many, many other issues rooted in justice and equality.

"His was a life well-lived. We have been honored by Senator Levin’s association with Wayne State and are grateful for his deep commitment to Wayne Law and its students and faculty."

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson

“Senator Carl Levin was the consummate statesman. He lived and breathed Detroit. First as City Council president, then as Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator, and after his retirement when he chose Wayne State University Law School - Detroit’s Law School - to be home to the center that would bear his name.

“To everyone who knew him, Senator Levin will be remembered as one of the kindest, most humble, genuine and loyal individuals you would ever encounter. When he first came to Wayne Law, I’m told that he was very concerned about the size of his office. He felt it was simply too big and should really have gone to somebody else. That’s the kind of person Senator Levin was.

“It would be wrong to say that today marks the end of an era. We have lost a giant, yes. But he taught and inspired Wayne Law students to not only do something, but to do the right thing no matter the cost. Because of his lessons, he leaves behind a lasting impact for generations to come. We are all better because of Carl Levin.”

Wayne State University Dean Richard A. Bierschbach

“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.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

“The Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus deeply mourns the loss of Senator Carl Levin. Our most heartfelt sympathies are with his loving wife Barbara and the entire Levin family. Carl’s loss leaves a large hole in our community - and is a loss felt by all Michiganders.

“Throughout his long and eminent career of public service, Senator Levin embodied the best of Michigan values, the best of Jewish values, and the best of Democratic values. We cherish his legacy as Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. Senator, the first and only Jew to represent Michigan in the United States Senate, and most importantly - the legacy of the countless lives he touched and hearts he opened. May Carl Levin’s memory be a blessing. We know it will be. For Michigan, for our Jewish community, and for the United States.”

Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus

“The world lost a giant today, and I lost a personal hero. Senator Levin’s decades-long dedication to representing the people of Michigan set a bar few elected officials will ever meet. His no-nonsense, brutally honest approach to politics is what gained him respect across the aisle. I greatly admired his unwavering commitment to doing what was right – even if it wasn’t easy – and his passionate approach to understanding every single issue he voted on. We all could learn a great deal from his service. My thoughts are with his loved ones. There will never be another Carl Levin.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

“My sincere condolences go out to the Levin family. Senator Carl Levin was a champion for the state of Michigan, and a friend to Macomb County. We will be forever thankful for his service.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Michigan’s longest serving U.S. Senator, Carl Levin. We lost a true statesman tonight. Born in Detroit in 1934, he served our city with dignity as a City Councilman and our nation as a US Senator and always considered Detroit his home.

“Sen. Levin was first and foremost a dedicated family man. He will be remembered as a champion for civil rights, for his protection of the US auto industry, and for securing critical funding to begin the redevelopment of our internationally acclaimed Riverfront.

“His legacy will live on forever in the hearts of Detroiters. My heart goes out to his family at this difficult time.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

“An icon. An innovator. A fighter. A true and genuine public servant. No matter how busy he was, he was engaged and attentive. Whenever I contacted him for help and assistance he met with me, not his staffers, whether it was in DC or Detroit. There was no one one like him. I send my condolences to his family. May he truly rest In peace.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy

"“For 36 years, UAW members didn’t have just a Senator, they had a friend in Carl Levin. He was a strong, caring, deeply committed individual who never forgot the working families of Michigan and this country.

“Carl Levin stood for honor and dignity and fairness for all Americans. As Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he steered our nation through the turbulent period after the terror attacks of 9-11 with quiet dignity and a resolve to modernize our military.

But it was here in Detroit, where Senator Levin started as a Councilman championing Civil Rights, that he always returned. He played an integral part in the lives of UAW members and was a key and important voice during the great recession as the auto industry reeled and UAW members' livelihoods were in the balance.

"We offer condolences to Senator Levin’s family on behalf of a grateful constituency of UAW members, families and communities.”

UAW President Ray Curry

“Carl was one of the most decent human beings to walk the face of the earth. He was John Dingell’s best friend and partner in Congress. He was a steadfast leader who always stood up for what was right and knew every ounce about every issue. His contributions in Congress and in his Michigan community live on to this day and have impacted so many hardworking American families.

“I will always remember his words, ‘If you don’t come to elected office willing to compromise, you don’t come wanting to govern.’ That’s the kind of elected official he was – respectful, willing to listen, and ready to get to work. But aside from notable public service, Carl was an ever-present family man and friend that exuded compassion and respect for everyone. He and John had an inseparable bond and could always been seen saving a seat for one another. This strong bond was tied together by their deep passion for public service, their Michigan roots, and a love for witty humor.

“The Levins and Dingells friendship has been a strong force for over 70 years. My heart is with the entire Levin family, especially his wife Barbara, his best friend and brother Sandy, and my colleague Rep. Andy Levin. I know John is welcoming Carl with open arms and a twinkle in his eye and that they are both watching over us all. May Carl’s memory be a blessing that lives on every single day.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell

“Michigan has lost a true statesman.

“As an 18-year-old just elected to local office, Carl Levin was my political idol. I remember writing him and Carl graciously responded by setting a meeting between the two of us. I have vivid memories volunteering on Carl’s first campaign for Senate in 1978. I looked up to Carl then the same way I do today. Never did I imagine years later I would get the privilege of serving with Carl in the United States Congress.

“As Michigan’s longest-serving senator, Carl Levin cast more votes than all but a few senators in American history. Carl was a master legislator and giant in the United States Senate. He will be remembered for many legislative achievements, especially his time as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Carl always gave Michiganders a voice in Congress, fighting to save the American automotive industry and protect our country’s national security. He was never afraid to cross the aisle and work with Republicans if it meant getting results for his constituents.

“Carl was an incredible mentor, friend and colleague. I will miss him greatly. Jennifer and I extend our deepest condolences to Carl’s wife Barbara and the entire Levin family, including his brother, Congressman Sander Levin and nephew, Congressman Andy Levin.”

Rep. Dan Kildee

“I am saddened to learn that Sen. Carl Levin passed away Thursday. As the longest serving senator in Michigan history, Sen. Levin was a national leader who ably served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and earned national acclaim for holding Wall Street accountable after the Great Recession. Yet he always remained devoted to his hometown. His support for redevelopment projects like the Riverwalk and M1 streetcar helped jump start Detroit’s ongoing rebirth. On behalf of Wayne County residents, I want to extend condolences to the Levin family in this difficult time. We will remain grateful for Sen. Levin’s lifetime working to make the world -- and our little corner of it -- a better place.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

“I join Detroit, the State of Michigan and the Nation in mourning the loss of United States Senator Carl Levin. As elected officials, it is important to connect with the public and understand their plight. Sen. Levin was the consummate public servant and embodied that mantra. His civility and ability as a legislator was admirable and, more importantly, effective. Although retired, he remained a force for good in Detroit and around the World. I am proud to have had the opportunity to represent Sen. Levin as his council member as he remained in the heart of District 5 until his death. Sen. Levin, being a former Detroit City Council member himself, has always been an inspiration to me and his service helped me understand the significant calling on my life and the awesome responsibility that comes with the office.

“Senator Carl Levin’s legacy lives on and we will forever be indebted to him and his family for his decades of public service. Job well done faithful servant, you will never be forgotten. Rest in heavenly peace and may God Bless your soul!”

President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield, Detroit City Council

About the Author:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.