Former Rep. Bob Michel, a Republican who served in Congress for 38 years, died of pnuemonia Friday at the age of 93.
Michel, an Army veteran who served in the Second World War, had a storied career as a lawmaker, serving as the House minority leader for 14 years, the longest tenure in American history. His passing was met Friday with an outpouring of support.
The Peoria congressman is remembered for his commitment to midwestern values and his willingness to work across the aisle in Washington. Sen. Dick Durbin, who knew Michel for 35 years and served alongside him in the House, eulogized the Republican Friday.
“Every politician alive should pray that, like Bob Michel, the last words said of him would be ‘the face of decency and public service,” Durbin said in a statement.
Rep. Rodney Davis, who considered Michel a good friend and mentor, referred to his fellow Republican as “one of the most respected members of Congress of all time.”
Michel served 19 terms in Congress, spending six years as House minority whip before becoming the minority leader in 1981. After choosing not to seek reelection in 1994, the GOP took control of the House and Newt Gingrich was named speaker. Michel never served as part of a House majority.
Gingrich, who was critical of Michel’s ties to Democratic lawmakers, served as House speaker until 1999, at which point he was ousted and replaced by incarcerated Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert, Michel’s mentor. Durbin slammed Gingrich in his statement Friday.
“Michel’s replacement as Republican leader in the U.S. House by Newt Gingrich marked the end of an era of civility in Congress,” Durbin said. “It has never been the same since.”
Following his retirement, Michel’s protege, Republican Ray LaHood, replaced him as the representative for Illinois’ 18th congressional district. LaHood went on to serve as the U.S. Transportation Secretary under President Barack Obama.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Michel is survived by his four children: Scott, Bruce, Laurie and Robin.