'Totally devoted'; friends, colleagues remember Carl Levin, Michigan's longest-serving senator

The UAW president said he stood for dignity and fairness. Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell called him "one of the most decent human beings to ever walk this Earth." Time Magazine listed him as one of America's Best Senators.

Carl Levin, Michigan's longest-serving U.S. Senator and among the more prominent politicians in Congress in the last half-century died yesterday at the age of 87. 

His passing was reported around the country and officials that worked with him sang his praises as a pragmatic legislator who found ways to work in Congress in an increasingly partisan climate.

"Carl Levin was a great man for sure. But he was also a good man," said former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard.

Levin worked as a public defender in Detroit before finding himself on the city council - a precursor of things to come. A national force in American politics and champion of the Democratic Party, Levin became a powerful advocate for the military during his time as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. 

He also presided over tax reform and was known for his questioning during key committee hearings against Enron and other large accounting firms.

As a member of Michigan's Congressional delegation, Levin was also a significant figure that backed the auto industry. His family and the Dingells, both influential labor leaders in the sector is well-known in Congress.

"He was John Dingell’s best friend and partner in Congress," said Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). "He was a steadfast leader who always stood up for what was right and knew every ounce about every issue. His contributions in Congress and in his Michigan community live on to this day and have impacted so many hardworking American families

Levin was a Harvard Law School graduate and worked as general counsel for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1964 to 1967. He also worked as a special assistant attorney general before entering politics. He was Detroit City Council President until 1977. 

RELATED: Carl Levin, Michigan Senator, dead at 87

He was first elected to Congress in 1987 after he beat incumbent Republican Robert Griffin. Nobody else held the seat until he retired 36 years later. 

His nephew and current U.S. Congressman Andy Levin, released a statement Thursday night after Carl died from lung cancer. 

"Uncle Carl was above all a family man. No matter the pressing business he faced as a senator, he always centered Aunt Barbara, my cousins Kate, Laura and Erica and their families, devoted time to them and so obviously cherished them. And the way he loved and treated his family radiated out and served as a model for how he treated colleagues, staff, constituents, soldiers and the world.

"From my earliest memory to this moment, perhaps above all, he has defined with my dad how close two brothers, two siblings, two people can be. In the end, these two Jewish boys from Detroit, these grandsons of immigrants each served 36 years in Congress, 32 of them together, becoming by far the longest co-serving siblings in the 232-year history of this place. As heartbroken as we are in this moment, I feel so grateful to have experienced this love and legacy."