kids encyclopedia robot

William Milliken facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
William Milliken
William Milliken 1969.png
44th Governor of Michigan
In office
January 22, 1969 – January 1, 1983
Lieutenant Thomas F. Schweigert (acting)
James H. Brickley
James Damman
James H. Brickley
Preceded by George W. Romney
Succeeded by Jim Blanchard
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
September 9, 1977 – August 29, 1978
Preceded by Reubin Askew
Succeeded by Julian Carroll
54th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
In office
January 1, 1965 – January 22, 1969
Governor George W. Romney
Preceded by T. John Lesinski
Succeeded by Thomas F. Schweigert (acting)
Member of the Michigan Senate
from the 27th district
In office
January 1, 1961 – December 31, 1964
Preceded by John Minnema
Succeeded by William Romano
Personal details
William Grawn Milliken

(1922-03-26)March 26, 1922
Traverse City, Michigan, U.S.
Died October 18, 2019(2019-10-18) (aged 97)
Traverse City, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Helen Wallbank
(m. 1945; died 2012)
Children 2
  • James T. Milliken (father)
Relatives James W. Milliken (grandfather)
Education Yale University (BA)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Army-USA-OR-06 (Army greens).svg Staff sergeant
Unit US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Battles/wars World War II

William Grawn Milliken (March 26, 1922 – October 18, 2019) was an American businessman and politician who served as the 44th governor of Michigan. A member of the Republican Party, he is the longest-serving governor in Michigan history, serving more than three full four-year terms from 1969 to 1983. During this period he dealt with dramatic changes to the state economy, due to industrial restructuring and challenges to the auto industry, resulting in loss of jobs and population from Detroit, the state's largest city. He also oversaw the PBB crisis and adopted a policy of environmental protection and conservation.

Early life

Milliken was born in Traverse City, Michigan, the second child in a family devoted to public service. His father, James T. Milliken, served as mayor of Traverse City and as Michigan State Senator for the 27th District, 1941–50, and his mother Hildegarde (née Grawn) served on the Traverse City School Board; she was the first woman elected to public office in the city. Milliken's paternal grandfather James W. Milliken had previously one term as a Michigan state senator from the 27th District, 1898–1900.

After graduating magna cum laude from Traverse City Senior High School, Milliken entered Yale University, where he met his future wife, Helen Wallbank. In 1942, he interrupted his studies to enlist in the Army Reserve Corps and, in early 1943, volunteered for the Army Air Corps. During World War II, he flew 50 combat missions as a waist-gunner on B-24 bombers and survived two crash landings. He received seven military honors, including the Purple Heart and Air Medal.

On October 20, 1945, one month after his honorable discharge, Milliken married Helen. The couple had two children: a daughter, Elaine, a lawyer and feminist who died of cancer in 1993; and a son William, Jr. The following spring, Milliken graduated from Yale.

William and Helen Milliken moved back to Traverse City that year and he became president of J.W. Milliken, Inc., a department store founded by his grandfather, and later run by his father. Milliken's operated locations in Traverse City and Manistee. Helen Milliken died at the age of 89 on November 16, 2012, at their Traverse City home, from ovarian cancer.

Political career

In 1947, Governor Kim Sigler appointed Milliken to the Michigan Waterways Commission. In 1960, Milliken was elected as a state senator from the 27th District, serving from 1961 to 1964. He was elected and served as the 54th lieutenant governor of Michigan from 1965 to 1969. He succeeded to the position of governor after George W. Romney resigned from office to serve in President Richard Nixon's cabinet. Milliken was subsequently elected to full four-year terms in his own right in 1970, 1974, and 1978. He was considered to be a moderate Rockefeller Republican. In June 1982, the governor led the formation of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Governor for 14 years, Milliken is the longest-serving person in that position in state history. With governors limited to two absolute terms in office since 1992, it is unlikely that any will serve longer than Milliken. John Engler served for 12 years as governor from 1991 to 2003, making him the second Republican after Milliken to serve three four-year terms.

In December 1982, Milliken appointed Dorothy Comstock Riley to the Michigan Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Blair Moody, Jr. Riley had run for election to the Supreme Court in the 1982 general election and had been defeated. Milliken was leaving office in less than a month and newly elected Democratic Governor James Blanchard argued he should have made the appointment to replace Moody rather than Milliken. In 1983, the other Supreme Court Justices voted 4–2 to remove Riley from the court, and Blanchard appointed his own choice. Riley was elected to the court in her own right in 1985.

Later life

After retiring from public office, Milliken moved back to Traverse City. He soon joined the board of directors of the Chrysler Corporation and chaired the Center for the Great Lakes, a research center dedicated to the protection of the Great Lakes. He spoke at the funeral of former Mayor of Detroit Coleman Young in 1997, who was the first African American elected as mayor of that city.

In presidential elections since 2004, Miliken expressed support for several Democratic candidates. In 2004, he endorsed Democratic Senator John Kerry in his bid to unseat George W. Bush, stating "The truth is that President George W. Bush does not speak for me or for many other moderate Republicans on a very broad cross section of issues." In 2008, he endorsed Republican John McCain, but backed away in October after McCain's campaign began attacking Democratic candidate Barack Obama. He told The Grand Rapids Press that "He is not the John McCain I endorsed." Milliken expressed concern about the direction of the Republican Party: "Increasingly, the party is moving toward rigidity, and I don't like that. I think Gerald Ford would hold generally the same view I'm holding on the direction of the Republican Party." In August 2016, Milliken announced that he would vote for Hillary Clinton for president in the 2016 presidential election, saying that Donald Trump does not embody Republican ideals.

In Michigan state elections, Miliken supported candidates from both parties. In 2010, he endorsed businessman Rick Snyder in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and continued to support him in the general election. In 2014, he endorsed Snyder for a second term. In the 2014 Senate election, he supported Democrat Gary Peters over the Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land.

In 2015, Milliken signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage.


On October 18, 2019, Milliken died at his home in Traverse City after years of declining health. His remains were cremated and buried on Mackinac Island next to wife, Helen and daughter, Elaine. On August 6, 2020, he was honored with a memorial service at Interlochen Center for the Arts.


  • In 1976, Governor Milliken was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by Yale University, his alma mater.
  • In 2006, Dave Dempsey published a biography on Milliken titled, William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate.
  • In fall 2009, the state of Michigan named a new state park (William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor), located on the riverfront in Detroit, in honor of the former governor.
  • Rooms 290, 291, and 292 of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island are collectively known as the Milliken Suite. They are located at the east end of the second floor overlooking the golf course.
kids search engine
William Milliken Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.