TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WLNS/AP) – Michigan’s longest-serving governor, William G. Milliken, has died. He was 97.
A family spokesman, Jack Lessenberry, says Milliken died Friday at his home in Traverse City.
Milliken, a moderate Republican, was governor for 14 years until 1983. His style of bipartisan cooperation made him popular among voters and politicians in both major parties.
Milliken’s priorities included civil rights, protecting the environment as well as helping Detroit as the city struggled with population loss and tumult in the auto industry. In 1972, he signed legislation creating the Michigan Lottery, which remains a source of cash for schools.
On March 16, 1922, William Grawn Milliken was born in Traverse City. His father James had served as a state Senator, and mother Hildegarde had been elected to the Traverse City school board.
In 1942, Milliken interrupted his studies at Yale University to enlist in the Army Reserve Corps and, in early 1943, volunteered for the Army Air Corps, and left for combat in June 1944.
Milliken was discharged in 1945 and returned to Yale to complete his senior year, graduating in the spring of 1946.
In 1947, Governor Kim Sigler appointed Milliken to the Michigan Waterways Commission.
In 1960, he was elected to state Senate, became the Senate majority floor leader, and made a bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 1964. He won alongside running mate Governor George Romney in 1966.
Milliken became governor on Jan. 22, 1969 upon Romney’s resignation to accept a Cabinet post in the Nixon Administration.
He held his gubernatorial ground, with victories in 1970, 1974 and 1978, making him the state’s longest serving governor.
As governor, Milliken established a legacy of conservation and environmental protection. Michigan voters passed the bottle deposit bill in 1976, diverting an estimated 600,000 tons of container refuse from landfills annually.
In 1977, Milliken won limits on phosphates used in laundry detergents, an action that contributed significantly to Lake Erie’s recovery.
In 1979 the state adopted the Wetlands Protection Act, an important step in protecting areas that strain pollutants from water, control runoff sediments, store floodwaters as well as provide habitat for fish, amphibians and waterfowl.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex and on all public buildings and grounds throughout the state of Michigan, to be lowered to half-staff immediately, Friday, October 18 until the day after interment to honor the life and service of former Governor Milliken.
Below you can see a few statements from politicians around the state regarding Milliken.
Gov. Milliken had an innate ability to bring people together. He was a man who understood diplomacy and the importance of bipartisanship. Michigan is a stronger state because of his leadership and ability to reach across the aisle to make the lives of our residents better. His lifetime of service was appreciated by all who knew him. I extend my heart-felt condolences to his family – their loss is Michigan’s loss.Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel