Former Sen. Carl Levin, a powerful voice on military issues in Washington and a staunch supporter of the auto industry back home in Michigan during his record tenure in the US Senate, has died, the AP reports. He was 87. The Harvard-educated civil rights attorney and former taxi driver, who for decades carried his faded 1953 auto union membership card in his wallet, died Thursday, his family and the Levin Center at Wayne State University’s law school announced in an evening statement. “We are all devastated by his loss. But we are filled with gratitude for all of the support that Carl received throughout his extraordinary life and career, enabling him to touch so many people and accomplish so much good,” the statement said. First elected to the Senate in 1978, Levin represented Michigan longer than any other senator, targeting tax shelters, supporting manufacturing jobs and pushing for military funding.
His tenure was a testament to voters’ approval of the slightly rumpled, down-to-earth Detroit native whom Time magazine ranked among the nation’s 10 best senators in 2006. A Washington insider and former prosecutor known for his professorial bearing, Levin took a civil but straightforward approach that allowed him to work effectively with Republicans and fellow Democrats. He was especially astute on defense matters thanks to his years as the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he didn’t fear speaking his mind. He was in the minority—even among his Democratic Senate colleagues—when he voted against sending US troops to Iraq in 2002. After his retirement, the Levin Center at Wayne Law was established to promote fact-based, bipartisan oversight by Congress and state legislatures and to encourage civil dialogue on public policy issues. He chaired the center and co-taught law courses. He also was a partner and distinguished counsel at the Honigman law firm in Detroit. (Read much more on his life.)