Funeral services were held Monday for former Rep. Martin Buth (R-Comstock Park), who in his 24 years in the House was able to blend a conservative sense with ensuring government provided needed services.
Mr. Buth was also one legislator able to work with Democrats and help build trust between the two parties.
Mr. Buth died on July 24, roughly four months shy of his 100th birthday.
For most of his life, Mr. Buth lived on the same dairy farm where he was born in 1917, located on Buth Drive in Comstock Park, and which he worked with his father and brother.
He graduated from what was then Michigan State College and did graduate work at the University of Michigan. He met his wife, GeorgeAnn at Michigan State. She predeceased Mr. Buth.
In the 1950s Mr. Buth became active in elective politics, winning a seat with the Plainfield Township Board of Trustees.
In 1959, he ran to fill a vacancy in the House, and then was re-elected in 1960 and elected again each term until he retired from the House in 1982.
While conservative, Mr. Buth also recognized that government could be a force to help with development and economic growth, and spent much of his time focused on legislation and actions to assist the Grand Rapids area that had lagged the Detroit region in many respects.
The region did not have a state university or college. Mr. Buth sponsored the legislation that helped create what became Grand Valley State University. He also helped ensure funding as the college began construction.
He sponsored an amendment to an appropriations measure that allowed for the planning and construction of the Grand Rapids Beltline, which served as a major conductor of development in the area.
And he played an active role in helping win a license for a new television station license in the Grand Rapids area, testifying before the Federal Communications Commission.
Mr. Buth served on a number of different committees, which befit his wide variety of interests. He was probably best known for his knowledge of taxation during a turbulent era that saw the creation of the personal income tax, the Single Business Tax and a number of other changes as the state veered from economic vibrancy to a series of devastating recessions.
Because Democrats controlled the chamber for most of his tenure, Mr. Buth was never the chair of the Taxation Committee. But as the minority vice-chair he was often a calming foil to the legendary chair Detroit Democrat George Montgomery who was known for his sharp temper as well as his mastery of tax issues.
The two, in fact, were fast friends. During a time when members of the two parties could negotiate, collaborate and socialize with each other, Mr. Buth and Mr. Montgomery shared an apartment in downtown Lansing, which was a rarity even then.
And the two sat at adjoining desks in the House chamber.
Mr. Montgomery died shortly after leaving office in 1980. And Mr. Buth decided not to seek re-election in 1982.
But his political life was not finished. Mr. Buth served four years after leaving state office as a member of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
“Martin Buth, 99, Republican With A Bipartisan Spirit Has Died”, Gongwer News, July 31, 2017.
Dominick Mastrangelo, “Former dairy farmer turned state representative dies at 99“, MLive, July 25, 2017.