Michigan's Longest-Serving Governor, William Milliken, Remains Relevant

The right wing of his party once snubbed him, but Michigan’s former governor remains the state’s Grand Old Politician



(page 1 of 4)

Few people knew anything about venture capitalist Rick Snyder when he began running for governor early last year.

The former Gateway computer executive began winning attention with his “tough nerd” commercial during the Super Bowl. He campaigned aggressively, spending millions of his own money.

Yet, less than two weeks before the August GOP primary, it seemed likely that Snyder would come up short. He was running third behind Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Pete Hoekstra, a congressman from the heart of west Michigan Dutch country.

Then something dramatic happened. William G. Milliken, the longest-serving governor in Michigan history, emerged from retirement to do something he hasn’t done in years. The Republican former governor turned heads by endorsing a Republican for governor. In the decades since his tenure, he has been largely a pariah within his own party. Conservatives who chafed under his moderate-to-liberal politics and governing style revolted when he decided not to seek re-election in 1982. They bypassed his chosen successor, the late Lt. Gov. James Brickley, and instead nominated Richard Headlee, the brash tax-cutting insurance executive.

Headlee went out of his way to insult Helen Milliken, the governor’s outspoken feminist wife in that campaign, which clearly hurt him with GOP women. He lost, but conservatives who had little use for “Milliken moderates” remained firmly in control of the party.

Archive »Related Content

In Remembrance: Elaine Stritch

Forced Labor

Michigan organizations join the battle against human trafficking.

The Art of Smooth

Tony Bennett brings his classic voice and cross-generational appeal to Freedom Hill Amphitheatre this August

Web Exclusive: Interview with Apolis, a brand featured at Willys Detroit

Web Exclusive: Bruce Weber at the DIA

On Thursday, June 19th, Hour Detroit attended an exclusive preview of photographer Bruce Weber's exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Most Popular

  1. Touring the Town
    A ride on an old school bus can reveal the secrets of a city we all think we know
  2. Detroit's New Social Fabric
    Metro area still attracts immigrants searching for a brighter future.
  3. High Society
    Rooftop entertaining can take your party to the next level
  4. Rediscovering the Garden
    Transformation of the 'worst block on Woodward' began with a vision — and a parking lot
  5. Slurp's Up
    Celebrated chef Takashi Yagihashi returns to area with a ramen restaurant
  6. Tainted
    The underlying “addiction” to tanning — the need to look a certain way — is a complex,...
  7. Tap Tour 2014
    Use our handy guide to plan your customized metro Detroit ‘beercation’
  8. Michigan Bier Celebration 2014
    Frankenmuth is gearing up for The Michigan Bier Celebration on July 19
  9. The Art of Smooth
    Tony Bennett brings his classic voice and cross-generational appeal to Freedom Hill Amphitheatre...
  10. The faces of Michigan wine: Jan Van Maanen
    Metro Detroiter's passion for wine leads to second career up north