Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken dies at age 97

Posted at 5:59 PM, Oct 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-19 10:26:34-04

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (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 and 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.

Milliken was promoted to governor from lieutenant governor in 1969 when Gov. George Romney resigned to join President Richard Nixon's administration. He won three elections but didn't run again in 1982, retiring from politics at age 59.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer expressed her condolences for the Milliken family:

“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. I’ve always looked up to Governor Milliken as a trusted, respected leader and I’m proud to have called him a friend of the family. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Governor Milliken’s family for their loss. May we all continue to learn from his lifetime of service as we work together to build a stronger Michigan for everyone.”

Oakland County Executive David Coulter remembered Gov. Milliken's legacy in this statement:

“Oakland County is deeply saddened by the passing of Gov. William Milliken. He faithfully served all Michiganders and earned respect on both sides of the aisle because of his moderate views and his ability to build consensus. He leaves a legacy of progressive accomplishments the moved our state forward and will always stand out in our history books as a model statesman. Our prayers and condolences go out to his family.”

In her statement, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow praised his commitment to public service:

“Governor Bill Milliken was one of the most amazing public servants I’ve ever worked with. He set the bar for integrity, dedication, and kindness. His passion for Michigan and our Great Lakes was unsurpassed. I was honored to call him my friend.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued this response:

"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."

WXYZ Editorial and Public Affairs Director Chuck Stokes interviewed the former governor back in 2008. Watch the video below: