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Michigan's longest-serving governor, William G. Milliken, turns 97 today

Posted: 12:22 PM, Mar 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-26 14:39:19-04
William G. Milliken photo

(WXYZ) — Michigan's longest-serving governor, William G. Milliken, turned 97 years old on Tuesday. Born on March 26, 1922 in Traverse City, Milliken served from 1969 through 1983.

He came from a family that had spent years in public service, with his father being a state senator and his mother serving on the Traverse City School Board, the first woman elected to the board, according to his state biography.

In high school, he wanted to be governor and began talking with then Gov. Chase Osborn. He went on to Yale and left before his senior year to join the Army Air Corps, and served in World War II from June 1944 through Sept. 1945.

He returned to Yale after his discharge and graduated in 1946 before he and his wife, Helen Wallbank, moved back to Traverse City.

In 1947, the state says Gov. Kim Sigler appointed Milliken to the Michigan Waterways Commission and he was elected to the state senate in 1960, becoming the Senate Majority Leader in 1964 where he worked alongside Gov. George Romney.

On Jan. 22, 1969, Milliken became governor after Romney accepted a Cabinet post in the Nixon administration, and the Republican won re-election in 1970, 1974 and 1978.

During his time as governor, Milliken became known for his conservation and environmental protections. They passed the bottle deposit bill in 1976, limited phosphates in laundry detergent in 1977 and in 1979, the state adopted the Wetlands Protection Act.

A Detroit riverfront park was named in his honor, and the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor is home to a harbor, picnic area, wetlands, trails and much more.