Former Congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the death of former 18th District Congressman Bob Michel brings an end to an era.
“He really, I think, represented the gold standard for public service. He was someone who was a mentor for many, many people over the years, including myself,” LaHood told WMBD’s Greg and Dan.
Michel died Friday morning and the age of 93. The Washington Post reported Michel died of pneumonia.
LaHood said he first served for Michel in his Peoria District Office in 1982, eventually becoming Michel’s Chief of Staff.
“He understood the art of politics very well. He understood the art of public service very well.”
LaHood says he learned many important lessons while working for Michel, adding that he never forgot where he came from.
“Always have respect for people. Always listen to them. Pay attention to the people put you in office,” LaHood said.
LaHood says Michel showed respect for everyone he ever worked with, on both sides of the political aisle.
Michel was the longest-serving Republican leader in the House of Representatives.
Republican Dick Carver was mayor of Peoria from 1973 until 1984, while Michel was in Congress.
Carver describes Michel as a “great American.”
“Someone who fought the Battle of the Bulge in World War II,” Carver told 1470 & 100.3 WMBD. “Somebody the served the nation in terms of his service in the House.”
Carver said a friend of his, who had been in Congress, considered Michel the greatest member of the House of Representatives.
“My friend said without Bob Michel the Republicans would be a third thumb,” Carver said. “He was the person, in his opinion and I agree, who gave (Republicans) the opportunity to be a full participant in the work of the House.”
“(Michel) established such a wonderful relationship with the Democrats in the House in order to give the Republicans in the minority, and Bob tragically was in the minority his entire career, an opportunity to be successful.”
Carver said Michel’s legacy, simply, is one of cooperation.
“Bob Michel set a standard for what a member of the House of Representatives should be and how to serve the people of America by being willing to work with Democrats as much as he worked with Republicans.”
Carver worked with Michel on several projects to benefit Peoria, including the Air National Guard base at the Peoria International Airport.
“I was still the chief financial officer at the U.S. Air Force at the time we put it into our budget,” Carver said. “I told Bob I was going to do that. And I called Bob and told him, ‘I just put this in the budget, it’s going over to Congress. It’s your job now to make sure they know that this is important enough to get this passed.”
“And guess what,” Carver said. “As anyone who goes to the Peoria airport knows, that particular facility got built because Bob and I worked very close together to make sure that it did.”
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says Michel’s death is a huge loss to the community and to the country as a whole.
Ardis says Michel was first and foremost part of the ‘greatest generation’ of our country.
“He was an outstanding leader, a war hero,” Ardis said. “And, what probably most people will probably remember is that he was a real stalwart in Congress. That’s what Congress needs to get back to, is what Bob Michel did.”
Ardis says Michel was always known for his ability to work with those across the aisle to do good things for our country.
“People could probably take some lessons by stepping back at this time not only to remember Bob Michel, but to remember how government worked back then. And, how they really worked for the people, and got things done.”
Democratic State Senator Dave Koehler of Peoria said he is saddened by Michel’s death.
“He was really a champion of central Illinois,” Koehler told 1470 & 100.3 WMBD, “and somebody who really represented civility at its best.”
“He worked across the aisle. He was known for his bipartisan approach to make sure things got done.”
Koehler says when Michel left Congress in 1995 it was the end of a era.
“Once he left Congress we saw there was a certainly a different, meaner spirit and bipartisanship was kind of out the window,” Koehler said.
Koehler says central Illlinois lawmakers in Springfield have been able to work together on projects to benefit their local constituents.
“That’s really in the spirit of Bob Michel that we do that,” Koehler said. “And I think it sets a good tone for those who follow us, as well.”
Bradley University is mourning the death of Bob Michel.
Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley, calls Michel a “very loyal, true supporter” of the University.
McMillan said Michel graduated from Bradley in 1948 and met his wife, Corrine, while attending Bradley.
“He served as a trustee and as an honorary trustee,” McMillan said.
But, McMillan said Michel never forgot his Peoria and Bradley roots.
“(Michel) helped secure funding for the Caterpillar Global Communications Center and the student center on campus is named in his honor,” McMillan said.
“He’s been a role model for teaching Bradley students about ethical, bipartisan, civil leadership in public service.”
“It’s just a sad day on the hilltop. He meant so much to Bradley University and he’ll be deeply missed,” McMillan said.
McMillan interned for Michel from 1983-1984 and then worked for him after college before becoming former Congressman Ray LaHood’s chief of staff when LaHood succeeded Michel in Congress.
Caterpillar, Inc. CEO Jim Umpleby
“If you’re driving in the Peoria area, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself on the Bob Michel Bridge, a perfect metaphor for a man who dedicated his life to building bridges in Washington for his hometown. Bob Michel was a classy, generous and courageous man who stands shoulder to shoulder with the outstanding lineage of Central Illinois representatives. Caterpillar is particularly thankful for Bob’s deep affection for our company and employees. His service to our nation, both in the U.S. Army where he received numerous decorations for valor, and his 38 years in the House of Representatives, where he always put Central Illinois first, deserve our eternal gratitude. Bob’s love for his country was only exceeded by his love for his wife Corinne and his family. He will be deeply missed and remembered as a statesman of the highest order.”
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
“Congressman Michel was the definition of a public servant. Best known for his bipartisan style and working cooperatively with Democrats and Republicans alike, he was beloved by all. He fought hard for his country in World War II, and spent the rest of his life tirelessly working on behalf of Peoria, the state of Illinois, and our nation. Diana and I send our deepest sympathies to his family.”
U.S. Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18)
“It is with a heavy heart today that we mourn the passing of former Congressman Bob Michel. Bob Michel led a remarkable life. Born and raised in Peoria, as a young man he stormed the beaches of Normandy as an infantryman in WW II, fought in the battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart Award. He came home and graduated from Bradley University and got elected to Congress and went on to honorably serve for 38 years representing Peoria and much of Central Illinois. 14 of those years as the elected House Republican Leader where he was instrumental in helping President Ronald Reagan pass his legislative agenda through Congress. Bob is remembered for his uncommon decency and his common sense Midwestern values. He was a true statesman and an example for all of us in public service. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his entire family. May God bless him.”
U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
“Whether it was his courageous service in World War II, his work to strengthen Illinois or his bipartisan approach to leadership in Congress, Bob Michel was one of Peoria’s best. Bob Michel proved that if Democrats and Republicans are willing to reach across the aisle and work together, then we can achieve great things for the people we serve. I join with all Peorians in giving thanks for the example he set and offering my heartfelt condolences to his friends, family and loved ones.”
State Senator Chuck Weaver of Peoria
“Bob Michel remains an inspiration for statesmanship and cooperation. His dedication to his community, his country, and his principles will be sorely missed. His decades of service in Congress and his bravery during World War II will long be remembered and will serve as a shining example of service and dedication for future generations. I would ask that you keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
State Representative Tim Butler, former Chief of Staff for Congressman Ray LaHood, who succeeded Bob Michel
“Our Nation, our State, and my hometown of Peoria have lost a true giant. Bob Michel embodied the best of what it is to be a public servant. Bob brought his humble, Main Street, Central Illinois values to Washington, a background that allowed him to succeed like few Members who serve in the minority party have ever have. Bob stood on principle, but his deep belief in civility and establishing common ground to make progress is something that is sorely needed in today’s political environment. It was a true honor to know Bob and be able to call him my friend. My condolences go to his family and all of those who knew this wonderful man.”