Carl Levin, a liberal Democrat who rose from a prominent Detroit family to become Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator and helped set military priorities and investigate corporate behavior for decades before retiring in 2015, died Thursday. He was 87.
A defender of Senate traditions, even when his own party moved to change them, Levin, who was trained as a lawyer, twice served as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, despite having never served in uniform himself.
As such, he helped set U.S. military strength and policy, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, though he voted against authorizing the use of force in the latter.
He also investigated questionable Pentagon spending practices and played a key role in overturning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule that prohibited gay service members from openly acknowledging their sexual orientation prior to 2011. As head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, he led probes questioning what he saw as corporate excesses, including those involving Enron, Apple and Goldman Sachs.
As a Michigan senator, he defended the auto industry, supported the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler in 2008-09 and backed numerous projects including Detroit’s RiverWalk, the M-1 Light Rail and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, among others. For years, he fought for a new Soo Lock — efforts that only began to bear fruit after he left office.
Todd Spangler, “Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest serving U.S. senator, dies at 87”, Detroit Free Press, July 29, 2021.
Carl Levin. “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate“. Detroit, Michigan : Wayne State University Press,