A family spokesman, Jack Lessenberry, says Milliken died Friday at his home in Traverse City.
Milliken, a moderate Republican, was governor for 14 years until 1983.
His style of bipartisan cooperation made him popular among voters and politicians in both major parties.
Milliken's priorities included civil rights, protecting the environment and helping Detroit as the city struggled with population loss and tumult in the auto industry. In 1972, he signed legislation creating the Michigan Lottery, which remains a source of cash for schools.
Milliken was promoted to governor from lieutenant governor in 1969 when Gov. George Romney resigned to join President Richard Nixon's administration. He won three elections but didn't run again in 1982, retiring from politics at age 59.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement on his passing:
“Governor Milliken was a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor. He had a unique ability to bring people from both sides of the aisle together for the betterment of Michigan. We are a stronger, safer, more sustainable state because of his leadership and dedication to the people who call it home. I’ve always looked up to Governor Milliken as a trusted, respected leader and I’m proud to have called him a friend of the family. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Governor Milliken’s family for their loss. May we all continue to learn from his lifetime of service as we work together to build a stronger Michigan for everyone.”
Gov. Whitmer also ordered that all U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex, and on all public building and grounds throughout the state, to be lowered to half-staff immediately on Friday, Oct. 18 until the day after interment to honor Milliken, according to an announcement from the governor's office.
Other Michigan leaders have also released statements regarding Milliken's passing:
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel:
"Gov. Milliken had an innate ability to bring people together. He was a man who understood diplomacy and the importance of bipartisanship. Michigan is a stronger state because of his leadership and ability to reach across the aisle to make the lives of our residents better. His lifetime of service was appreciated by all who knew him. I extend my heart-felt condolences to his family – their loss is Michigan’s loss."
U.S. Senator Gary Peters:
“Governor Milliken’s proud record of bipartisan problem-solving, exemplary public service and love for the Great Lakes defined a Michigan era, and his legacy will continue to inspire Michiganders for generations to come. Like so many, I sought his counsel and I was always grateful for his advice and support. Colleen and I send our deepest sympathies to the Milliken family; the entire State of Michigan mourns with you today.”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow:
“Governor Bill Milliken was one of the most amazing public servants I’ve ever worked with. He set the bar for integrity, dedication, and kindness. His passion for Michigan and our Great Lakes was unsurpassed. I was honored to call him my friend.”
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield:
“Governor Milliken has been the standard bearer for leadership and bipartisanship for the past 50 years. Everyone who comes to the Capitol trying to make a difference and help improve our state aspires to live up to the standard he set and the example he gave as our governor. We all feel his loss, but we will also remember the life he lived and his service to the people of Michigan.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich:
“Governor Milliken set the gold standard of public service over politics. He will be remembered fondly in the history books as someone who lead with the right priorities and spoke with a voice of reason in turbulent times. We mourn his passing but celebrate his life of service to this great state.”
Copyright 2019 WILX. All rights reserved.