William Milliken, Michigan's longest-serving governor, and an extremely moderate Republican, who appealed to many in both parties, died Friday evening at his Traverse City home, the Detroit Free Press reports. He was 97.
Milliken, a World War II veteran who served as governor from 1969-83, championed causes for Detroit and the environment.
"He was one of the nicest men you will ever meet," said Bill Rustem, a 20-year-old MSU student when he became a Milliken intern and went on to become a spokesman, speech writer and policy adviser to the former governor, the Freep reports.
"It was an age of civility when compromise was not a bad word, and when you listened instead of shouted," Rustem said.
Milliken was a lifelong Republican, but not a diehard one.
In 2004, he endorsed Democrat John Kerry for President. In 2008, he endorsed Republican John McCain, but withdrew that backing weeks before the election.
Bob Berg, who was a press secretary for Milliken and later Mayor Coleman A. Young, said earlier:
“Both Gov. Milliken and Mayor Young were deeply committed to the idea that holding public office is a public trust,” Berg said. “Both men had a fundamental commitment to creating equal opportunity at all levels and to confronting and solving urban issues. They were quite different in background and temperament, but they shared the same core philosophy and ideals, which is why they were such good personal friends and why they worked so effectively together.”
Sen. Gary Peters issued a statement Friday night:
“Governor Milliken’s proud record of bipartisan problem-solving, exemplary public service and love for the Great Lakes defined a Michigan era, and his legacy will continue to inspire Michiganders for generations to come. Like so many, I sought his counsel and I was always grateful for his advice and support. Colleen and I send our deepest sympathies to the Milliken family; the entire State of Michigan mourns with you today."
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said:
"Governor Milliken was a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor. He had a unique ability to bring people from both sides of the aisle together for the betterment of Michigan. We are a stronger, safer, more sustainable state because of his leadership and dedication to the people who call it home."