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Carl Levin, 'champion for truth and justice,' dies at 87

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Former U.S. Senator Carl Levin, a giant in Michigan politics, has died. He was 87.

Levin represented Michigan longer in the U.S. Senate than anyone else.

For 36 years, from 1979 until his retirement in 2015, Levinwas Michigan’s voice in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s the greatest place I can imagine, other than the presidency, to be involved in public service.” That's how Levin described the U.S. Senate during an interview with April Baer on Michigan Radio’s Stateside

Levin’s nephew, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) praised his uncle, saying he “personified integrity.”

Throughout his time in the senate, Levin was a leader on defense. He was a supporter of the war against terrorism, but also an early critic of the war in Iraq.  

As chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee, Levin pressed for stronger cost controls in the Department of Defense budget. He also foused on the needs of America’s servicemen and women.

“They not only protect us, they unite us,” Levin said in his farewell address in 2015.

In the Senate, Levin also targeted companiesthat abused the nation’s tax structure in ways that allowed them to pay little or no taxes.

“Because they created these artificial entities, overseas in tax havens, so they could avoid paying American taxes,” said Levin. “You got the wealthiest companies, the Googles, the Apples, and so forth that are avoiding taxes. That puts a burden on the rest of us.”

He pushed other reforms on Wall Street and Washington lobbyists.

Levin was no stranger to partisan politics, but in his farewell speech on the Senate floor, he urged his colleagues to be open to compromise.

“When compromise is thwarted, by ideological rigidity or by abuse of the rights that our rules afford us, the Senate can become paralyzed, unable to achieve the lofty tasks that the Founders set before us," Levin told his fellow senators in 2015.

In the years since his retirement, Carl Levin remained active.

In addition to his work developing the Levin Center at Wayne State University, Levin was a mediator assisting with a settlement of civil claims in the Flint water crisis.

For 14 years, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow served alongside Levin representing Michigan.

She calls Carl Levin, “a champion for truth and justice and a tireless advocate for the people of Michigan.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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