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Longtime former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 after battle with cancer

By
Kyle Barnett
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., speaks about the U.S. military campaign in Iraq on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 3, 2002. File Photo by Chris Corder/UPI
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., speaks about the U.S. military campaign in Iraq on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 3, 2002. File Photo by Chris Corder/UPI | License Photo

July 30 (UPI) -- Carl Levin, who spent more than three decades in the U.S. Senate and was Michigan's longest-serving senator, has died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 87.

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School announced the former lawmaker's death.

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Levin died on Thursday at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He'd announced in March that he was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

In his memoir Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate, Levin noted he'd been suffering from lung cancer for four years.

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"Over six decades, Carl fought with compassion to extend and ensure the American promise to all," the Levin Center said in a statement. "Nurtured and inspired throughout his early years growing up in a loving family in Detroit, he was drawn to the social issues of the times and sought ways to contribute to the betterment of his community."

During his time on Capitol Hill between 1979 and 2015, Levin cast more than 12,000 votes as a lifelong Detroit resident who was raised in a family of attorneys.

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Levin left the city to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and then Harvard University in Massachusetts, where he graduated from law school in 1959.

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He returned to Detroit to start his career as a defense attorney before turning his eye to politics, serving on the Detroit City Council from 1969 to 1977, the last four years as president. He was elected to the Senate in 1978.

Levin announced his retirement when he was 78 and founded the Levin Center.

"Wherever I went in Michigan ... I would run into people who would say, 'I don't always agree with Sen. Levin, but I support him anyway because he is so genuine," Levin's nephew, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., told the Detroit Free Press.

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Levin chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee in two different stints between 2001 and his retirement. In that role, he oversaw congressional military matters related to campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Levin was instrumental in overturning the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule that mandated LGBTQ military members keep their sexuality confidential during military service. He also supported the federal bailout of the American auto industry, which is headquartered in Detroit, in 2008 and 2009.

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Construction of the USS Carl M. Levin, a 500-foot Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is currently underway in Maine.

"He was a tireless advocate for the positive role that government can play in the lives of the American people and a relentless watchdog ensuring that government programs meet their commitments," the Levin Center added. "He stood up for American workers and families and against powerful institutions that put profit over people.

"In whatever he did, he defended the uniquely American proposition that all of us, no matter the color of our skin, how we worship, whom we love, the privilege of our parentage, or the size of our bank accounts, are created equal."

Levin is survived by his wife Barbara Halpern-Levin, three daughters and six grandchildren. His older brother, Sander Levin, also represented Michigan in the U.S. House.

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