As the tributes come in for former Michigan Governor William Milliken, the common thread in all of them was about the man's decency and how he got along with everyone, on both sides of the political spectrum.

Milliken, who was born in Traverse City in 1922, died there Friday. After running the family business, a chain of Milliken's Department Stores, he entered public service. Milliken was the 44th and longest serving governor in the state's history; in office from 1969 to 1983, when after the law changed, he was term-limited out.

Milliken's legacy was that he wasn't beholden to party politics and dogma. He was a moderate conservative Republican, but, in what would now seem unthinkable, he would govern from the middle.

Milliken "was known as a champion of Detroit and the state's environment, working closely with the late former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, and pushing for Michigan's bottle deposit law, among other initiatives, said a story in the Detroit Free-Press. "He made Michigan the first state to ban PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which were widely used in electrical transformers and linked to cancer, and DDT, a pesticide harmful to wildlife and humans."

During his years in office, Milliken "shunned the extremes and sought to govern from the center," wrote Michigan environmentalist Dave Dempsey in his 2006 biography, "William Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate." - Detroit Free-Press

Current Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said late Friday, Milliken was "a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor...(with) a unique ability to bring people from both sides of the aisle together for the betterment of Michigan."

Milliken gave a speech at the Mackinac Conference in 2005, where he said these prophetic words. “One thing I learned long ago is that raising the level of your voice does not raise the level of the discussion," a lesson lost.

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