“I really consider him the gold standard of public service. His death is an end of an era, and that was an era of bipartisanship when people worked across party lines to solve big problems.”
— Former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL)
Former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-IL), who served in Congress from 1957 – 1995, passed away on Friday at the age of 93.
Michel served in Congress for almost forty years and led the GOP House delegation as Minority leader from 1981 until he retired in 1995. It’s often difficult to remember, but the GOP seemed caught in a perpetual minority through most of the second half of the 20th Century. Even so, Michel was a “happy warrior” who was well known as a man of character and kindness who loved his country well.
On November 29, 1994, an extraordinary thing happened on the House floor. Outgoing House Speaker Tom Foley, a Democrat from the Pacific Northwest, asked outgoing Minority Leader Bob Michel, a Republican from central Illinois, to take the gavel and preside over the House. More than a symbolic gesture, it was a fitting sendoff for a happy warrior revered for his decency and commitment to what’s right.
“A half-century earlier, as a combat infantryman, Bob Michel was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was at Normandy too. For his service in World War II, he received two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart.
“I did not have the privilege to serve with Leader Michel. But I do have the honor of working every day in the office in the Capitol that bears his name. What a name and legacy it is. What a life well-lived by this great and gracious man. Today the members of the House—past and present—mourn with the family and friends of our former colleague and leader.”
Just a few years ago the state of Illinois celebrated Michel’s 90th birthday, and he was still his jovial self.