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William Grawn Milliken

Gov. William Grawn Milliken

  • January 22, 1969 - January 1, 1983
  • Republican
  • March 26, 1922
  • Michigan
  • Yale University
  • Married Helen Milliken; two children
  • Succeeded, NGA Chair
  • Army
  • Purple Heart, Air Medal


WILLIAM GRAWN MILLIKEN was born in Traverse City, Michigan. Followiing his Yale graduation, he joined the family business that operated department stores in three Michigan citites. A U.S. Army Corps waist-gunner on a World War II B-24 bomber, he received military honors, including the Purple Heart and Air Medal, for participation in 50 combat missions. Milliken served in the Michigan State Senate from 1960 to 1964, the last two as majority floor leader. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1964 and 1966 and assumed the governorship on January 22, 1969, when George Romney resigned to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in President Richard Nixon’s cabinet. He was elected to his first full term in 1970, and reelected in 1974 and 1978. Although chief executive during the deepest economic crisis experienced in Michigan since the Depression, Governor Milliken was generally popular among the people of the state and his political peers. He chaired the National Governors’ Association during 1977-1978 and the Midwest Governors’ Association in 1974. He was the principal leader of the state GOP and a national force in the moderate wing of the Republican Party. His bipartisan, alliance-building style led him to court labor, occassionally appoint Democrats to state jobs, and support pro-choice legislation on abortion. Milliken led the state during a conflict-ridden era that frequently tested his ability as a crisis manager, including the General Motors strike of 1970, two Arab oil embargoes, contamination of the food chain with the toxic chemical PBB, and a controversy surrounding the state mental health system. He was admired for a firmness of conviction on issues that mattered greatly to him, such as the responsibility of government to cities, the arts, the environment, and the poor. The state revenue-sharing program that helped Detroit during troubled economic times was adopted largely through Milliken’s efforts. His administration was noted for its commitment to conservation and the passage of the Environmental Protection Act of 1970, which served as a model legislation throughout the nation; the budget stabilization fund and efforts at economic development; and, in the last days of his term, worker and unemployment compensation reforms and enactment of a transportation package. Milliken announced his decision not to seek reelection on December 22, 1981. After retiring from public office, he joined Chrysler Corporation’s board of directors and chaired the Center for the Great Lakes, a private economic and environmental research center devoted to protecting regional lake resources.


Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors’ Association, 1981.

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