Tributes Flood in for Carl Levin After Former Senator Dies at 87: 'Champion for Michigan'

Tributes have poured in for former Senator Carl Levin following his death on Thursday at the age of 87. The Democrat was the longest-serving U.S. senator in the history of Michigan.

Carl Levin's passing was announced on Thursday evening by family spokesperson Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School. Many of those who knew him quickly took to social media to mourn him and praise the senator's work and personality.

He served 36 years in the Senate from 1979 until his retirement in 2015. He was also a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, serving as the ranking member when Democrats were in the minority and as chair when they were the majority party.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Carl Levin "was a champion for Michigan."

"He devoted his life to public service, and it's up to us to follow his example. My thoughts are with his loved ones tonight," Whitmer said.

In her statement honoring Carl Levin, Whitmer pointed to his work on nuclear weapons and missile treaties and his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Michigan Democratic Party called Carl Levin a "living legend, always putting the needs of Michiganders ahead of his own."

"Known worldwide as a defender of peace and a champion for good, he represented the best of Michigan," the party said.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a statement on the former senator's passing, saying a "light has gone out today in Michigan that can never be replaced."

"I have no words to express what Senator Carl Levin and his lifetime of dedication to our city, state and country meant to me and so many of us who seek to serve and lead during these uniquely divided times," Benson said.

Former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tweeted: "Carl Levin was a wonderful Senator and an even better man. Loaded with intelligence and integrity, he led the most complicated efforts to get public policy right, with an emphasis on the public good. I was so grateful for his mentoring and friendship. My sympathy to his family."

Senator Carl Levin was a champion for Michigan. He devoted his life to public service, and it’s up to us to follow his example. My thoughts are with his loved ones tonight. pic.twitter.com/seE30UNrjP

— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) July 30, 2021

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who represents California's 15th congressional district, shared an anecdote about Carl Levin and his brother, U.S. Representative Sander "Sandy" Levin. Carl and Sander Levin served together in Congress for more than 30 years.

"As a congressional intern, I worked at a gym near the Capitol," Swalwell wrote. "Every morning, I checked out a racquetball court to Carl and his brother, Rep. Sandy Levin. I was a 20-year-old nobody, but Carl was always so kind & greeted me by name each morning."

CNN's Jake Tapper also shared a memory of Carl Levin and his brother, saying: "Years ago I would run into Sen Carl Levin and his brother Rep Sander Levin at a gym on Capitol Hill. They would play squash against each other. It was really nice and sweet to see. May his memory be a blessing."

One heartfelt tribute came from Representative Andy Levin (D-MI), Carl Levin's nephew and the son of Sander Levin.

"Carl Levin personified integrity and the notion of putting the public good above self-interest," Andy Levin wrote.

Carl Levin personified integrity and the notion of putting the public good above self-interest.

— Andy Levin (@Andy_Levin) July 30, 2021

"As he walked about the Capitol in a rumpled suit, almost always with a plain white shirt and pedestrian tie, carrying bulging files with the occasional paper flying away, Carl was the very picture of sober purpose and rectitude," Andy Levin said, but also noted that his uncle "wasn't unfun."

"He was so well-prepared for every meeting, hearing, and conference that he challenged conventional boundaries between senator and staff. He was one of the most challenging senators to work for and one of the most rewarding," the congressman went on.

He concluded by saying he was "heartbroken" but feels "so grateful to have experienced this love and legacy."

The Levin family and the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School issued a statement to Newsweek on Friday expressing their "great sadness" at the former senator's passing.

"For those who were lucky enough to be a part of his early work in Detroit, his decades in the Senate, and beyond, he was an inspirational leader and so much more. He will be remembered for his relentless intellect and work ethic, his humility, his humor, and his strength of character," the statement said.

"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. We will treasure our memories of him as a loving family member, friend, colleague, and public servant."

Michigan State Senator Sean McCann called Levin the "conscience of the Senate."

"[H]e was my inspiration for public service. Michigan has lost a giant," McCann said.

Representative Elisa Slotkin, a Democrat representing Michigan's 8th congressional district, said Carl Levin was an example for others to follow.

"Carl Levin led an amazing life, and set the gold standard for hard-working, decent Midwestern leadership. May his memory be a blessing. And may we all seek to live up to his example," Slotkin tweeted.

Update 7/30/21 7.55am ET: This article was updated to include tweets by Representative Andy Levin and a statement from the Levin family and Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School.

The Late Carl Levin Pictured in 2011
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), talks about U.S. companies receiving large tax breaks, during a news conference on Capitol Hill, On October 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. Levin passed away on Thursday at age 87. Mark Wilson/Getty Images