Sen. Carl M. Levin
Sen. Carl M. Levin

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, former Secretary William Cohen and President Joe Biden provided recorded remarks.

The family of the late Sen. Carl Levin and the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State University Law School honored the life and legacy of Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator with a memorial at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at Wayne State University’s Student Center Ballroom.

Levin, who left the Senate in 2015 after serving six terms and 36 years, died July 29, 2021. He was 87 years old. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Levin; daughters and sons-in-law, Kate Levin Markel, Laura and Daniel Levin, Erica Levin and Richard Fernandes; brother, Sander M. Levin; grandchildren, Noa, Bess, Benjamin, Samantha, Beatrice and Olivia.

When Sen. Levin passed away, his family said they received a tremendous outpouring of loving memories and tributes about the senator. Because of the pandemic, his public memorial was delayed until now so his family could “create an in-person event that honors Carl’s legacy of bringing people together.” 

[Related: Family and Friends Reflect on the Life, Legacy of Carl Levin]

Colleagues, constituents, family and friends of Sen. Carl Levin converged at Wayne State to celebrate his life and legacy. 

From 2001 until his retirement in 2015, Sen. Levin served as the chairman or the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he won near-universal acclaim for his work in that role. But perhaps most importantly, beyond his stand on any one issue, was his continual work to find common ground, to reduce tensions among his colleagues and to make the U.S. Senate work.

Levin was a Jewish Detroiter at his core. Prior to his time in the Senate, he served on the Detroit City Council after the civil disturbances that devastated Detroit in 1967 so that he “might be able to help start the process of rebuilding and healing my shattered hometown,” as he wrote in his biography. 

A Parade of Speakers

The memorial, led by director of the Levin Center Jim Townsend, included a score of speakers, including his brother, former Rep. Sander Levin, and nephew, Rep. Andy Levin, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed.

Other scheduled speakers included Eugene Driker, Levin’s daughters Erica Levin, Laura Levin and Kate Levin Markel, grandson Ben Levin, Robert Marans, Ismael Ahmed, Michigan Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson, Ibrahim Parlak, Chuck Wilbur, George Fowler, Tara Andringa and Alison Warner, David Lyles, Linda Gustitus and Elise Bean, and Kathleen Gray

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, former Secretary William Cohen and President Joe Biden provided recorded remarks.

Interspersed among the speakers were video interludes consisting of memories, stories and photos of Sen. Levin shared with the Levin family by his friends, colleagues and constituents who shared how he had made an impact on their lives. 

Remarks from President Joe Biden

In a video recording, President Biden said the following:

“I had the honor of calling Carl Levin my friend for more than 40 years. He was the most honorable man I’ve known in public life. He was brilliant, humble and principled. Carl looked everybody straight in the eye and he listened. He always told you how he saw it with honesty and respect. That’s how Carl earned the trust of the people in Michigan. And that’s how he earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. 

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden

“To be able to get so much done, protecting our national security, ending the use of torture, reining in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, standing up for the dignity of working people, working to improve gun safety, to holding corporate power accountable for their abuse and so much more. 

“You know, I always loved visiting Michigan with Carl. We talked about what led each of us to public service, the civil rights movement, how we each come up through local office. The county council, in my case, the city council in his. With Carl, you knew that Detroit was written on his heart. He talked all the time about the beauty of the Detroit Riverwalk and the Great Lakes.

“When the Great Recession struck our defining American industry and the auto industry was on the brink of collapse, Carl and I worked together to help Detroit get back, and it did — because of Carl. 

“Most of all, we talked about family. Jill and I are sending all our love to Barbara, to Erica, to Kate, to Laura, to grandkids, brother Sandy, nephew Andy and your families. 

“Despite the full life he lived, we know the void of his loss is still big and it leaves a giant hole in the middle of your chest. Despite his courageous fight against cancer, it still leaves a heavy toll.

“You know, Carl will always be with you, always, just as he’ll be with his friends, his former staff and the people of Michigan who loved Carl so dearly. God bless you, Carl Levin, a great American and a dear friend. 

“The highest compliment an Irishman can give another person is to say he was a good man. Carl was a good man.”

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