Carl Levin is well-known for his habit of gazing at the eyeglasses on the end o his nose. He was a familiar figure to many, and seemed comfortable wherever he went.

The longest serving U.S. senator from Michigan had a somewhat rumpled and down-to-earth manner that helped him win voters over throughout his 36-year tenure. Also, his support for the local auto industry was a key part of his success. The Harvard-educated lawyer was also a respected voice on military matters, having spent years leading the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

He kept his role in the context, despite his record tenure and high status. His office conference room was decorated with portraits of the 38 senators who served with him or before them since Michigan became a state in 1837. Future senators were given two empty spaces

Levin stated in 2008 that “I’m part a long line of people who have represented Michigan.” I’m only a part of that history. “The people who come after me… can continue where I left off, regardless of their identity.”

At 87, the former taxi driver and worker in auto-line died. In an evening statement, his family and Wayne State University’s Levin Center did not release the cause of death. Since age 83, he had lived with lung cancer.

We are all deeply saddened by his death. We are grateful for the support Carl received throughout his remarkable life and career, which enabled him to touch so many people with so much good,” the statement stated.

Levin was first elected to the Senate in 1978. He represented Michigan for more than any other senator. Levin targeted tax shelters, supported manufacturing jobs, and pushed for military funding. His tenure was testament to the voters’ approval of the somewhat rumpled but down-to-earth Detroiter, whom Time magazine listed among the top 10 senators in the country in 2006.

In 2008, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said that Reed is “just a very decent individual.” “He’s unpretentious, unassuming. He doesn’t forget that the work we do is interwoven with the lives and daily activities of the people he represents.”

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Washington insider, Levin was a former prosecutor who is well-known for his professorial bearing. He took a civil yet straightforward approach which allowed him to effectively work with Republicans and other Democrats. His years of service as the Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat made him a skilled defense expert.

He was in the minority, even among his Democratic Senate peers, when he voted against sending U.S. soldiers to Iraq in 2002. Two years later, he stated that President George W. Bush’s administration had written the book on how to mismanage wars. He later cautioned of the “beginnings of fraying” of Democratic support for the 2009 increase in troops in Afghanistan.