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Bob Michel passes away

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

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Long time Peoria Congressman Robert “Bob” Michel has passed away at the age of 93. Michel represented Central Illinois in Congress for 38 years and also served as the Republican leader for 14 years. State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), whose district includes Michel’s hometown of Peoria, issued the following statement:

“Bob Michel was a titan of Central Illinois politics. His Midwestern values of civility, compromise and compassion will be remembered by his ability to work across the aisle to do what was best for his district and the country.”

* Congressman Rodney Davis…

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a good friend and mentor this morning,” said Davis. “Bob Michel was a war hero and one of the most respected members of Congress of all time. His 38 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives and the incredible footprint he has left on Central Illinois and this country will never be forgotten. Bob’s ability to reach across the aisle to make a divided government work for the people he represented was second to none – a trait we should all strive to emulate each day. My thoughts and prayers are with his family this morning. He will truly be missed.”

* Treasurer Michael Frerichs…

“Illinois has lost a true gentleman and leader. Bob’s demeanor and ability to listen created an era that refused to allow political gamesmanship to overwhelm common decency and respect.

“He was a strong conservative who knew he did not have to shout to be heard. His service to our country, on the battlefield and in Congress, is a testament to servant leadership that benefited our entire country, not just his hometown of Peoria.

“My condolences to his friends and family, and may Bob find peace reuniting with his beloved wife, Corinne.”


“Our State and the Republican Party have lost a true statesman in the passing of Illinois native and former US House Republican Leader Bob Michel. Bob served our state and nation with honor and distinction both in uniform and in the halls of Congress. His reputation preceded him - Bob was a deft lawmaker, always ready to forge compromise, but never willing to sacrifice principle. More importantly, Bob Michel was a man of civility, respected by all on both sides of the aisle. The Illinois Republican Party sends its condolences to Bob’s family in their time of grieving.” - Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider

* Congressman Adam Kinzinger…

“A war hero, a distinguished public servant and the proud son of Illinois – Bob Michel was a selfless, principled leader who served for love of God and country. Today, we mourn his passing and remember the remarkable life he lived.

“A Peoria native with Midwestern values, Bob Michel represented his district in the U.S. House of Representatives for 38 years and served as the Republican Leader for 14 years. Prior to his role in Congress, Bob was a U.S. Army platoon leader in World War II where he received two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart for his valor and dedicated service.

“Bob Michel, a member of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ loved his country and this great institution, and he served us proudly. Our country is better for having the courage, patriotism and leadership of The Honorable Bob Michel – and I, like so many others, will continue to be inspired by the legacy he leaves behind. I extend my deepest condolences to his children, family and friends, and the entire Peoria community.”

* Roll Call

Robert H. Michel, who as the House minority leader from 1981 until his 1994 retirement became the longest-serving congressional Republican leader who never experienced majority power, died Friday. He was 93 and had lived on Capitol Hill much of the time since stepping down after 19 terms representing Central Illinois, including a portion of Macon County.

Michel epitomized the congressional Old School in nearly every way, which worked to his advantage for almost all of his four decades in office. He prized collegiality, collaboration, civility and courtesy as essential political virtues. He evidenced a steady reverence for the institutional prerogatives, customs and limitations of what he fondly termed “the people’s House.”

He could reliably claim to know that his brand of middle-of-the-road policymaking would play in Peoria — because that was his hometown. He was far more comfortable using his sonorous baritone to croon “God Bless America” at the Rotary Club than to parry with pundits on one of the Sunday shows.

He didn’t have special policy expertise, particular oratorical gifts or unusual parliamentary skill, and his leadership style was neither overtly charismatic nor consciously intimidating. Instead, Michel (pronounced “Michael”) got what he needed from the GOP rank and file because he was a patient listener, a flexible goal-setter and gentle persuader.

* US Sen. Richard Durbin…

“Every politician alive should pray that, like Bob Michel, the last words said of him would be ‘the face of decency and public service’. Michel’s replacement as Republican leader in the U.S. House by Newt Gingrich marked the end of an era of civility in Congress. It has never been the same since. His passing this morning reminds us that the son of an immigrant from Peoria, a decorated veteran of World War II and a proud Republican leader can set a standard we all should aspire to. I have known Bob for 35 years. We had neighboring congressional districts downstate. We campaigned for each other’s opponents. But there was never a moment when we weren’t respectful and friends. His legacy goes beyond his years of service. He left a remarkable protégé in Ray LaHood who to this day embodies Bob Michel’s extraordinary values.”

* Gov. 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.”

* House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

“U.S. House Minority Leader Bob Michel was a true statesmen. He demonstrated the best qualities of a public servant and is a prime example for others in public service to follow. Not only did he devote 38 years of his life representing the citizens of central Illinois in our nation’s capital, he earned his reputation as a skilled negotiator by bringing Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems. I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - A guy - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:36 am:

    The very definition of “A Gentleman of the House” RIP Sir.

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    Old school patriot who put country before personal political gain.

    After him, the GOP turned to the likes of Gingrich and Hastert. It’s a crying shame.

  3. - Give Me A Break - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    RIP Mr. Michael, though we are opposing sides of the aisle, you were always a true servant of the public and an example to anyone who wants to understand how things could, and should operate in the governmental world.

    Mr. Michael was a true statesman and advocate for all of Illinois. We need many more just like him.

  4. - Langhorne - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:56 am:

    Everything that rauner is not.

  5. - winners and losers - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:56 am:

    Native of Pekin, practiced oratory in a barn, had a twin brother who liked to tell the story where he complained that one time he could not use his garage because “Ev had a car hidden away there.”

  6. - winners and losers - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    Oops - Mixed up Michel with Ev Dirksen.

  7. - R.I.P. - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    Sadly, Michel would have no place in the modern Republican Party. He was a friend of Rostenkowski and as a leader he was constantly in the minority to the point where he was perceived as seeing the GOP as subordinate to the Democrats. He was a gentleman, but he was not sufficiently partisan to be an effective leader. Had Michel continued in office, Dick Gephardt would have been Speaker.

  8. - nikobey - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:06 am:

    Our nation, Congress, the State of Illinois, our 18th Congressional District and the Republican Party are all the poorer with the passing of Bob Michel. It is a sad commentary on our political system that there are currently so few Bob Michels in the political arena.

  9. - Old Shepherd - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    It’s sad to me that any time we lose an old-school pol, everyone laments that the era of civility that he or she represented is gone.

    My friends, this is collectively our fault. What can we do to correct it? The future of our nation–and perhaps humanity–depends on it.

  10. - Blue dog dem - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:23 am:

    Old Shepherd. No truer words have been written. I think the 24 hr news, social media, have such an impact, that politicians are afraid of their own shadows. I just dont know…..

  11. - Bipartisan to a fault - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Michel was undeniably a gentleman and bipartisan, but how successful was he as a party leader? Philip K. Wrigley was a good man too, but what was he known for? Owning a losing ball club that was seldom competitive.

    Michel was becoming passe’ when Reagan was elected in 1980 and he was out of fashion by the 1990s. Ironically, the Republicans won control of the House for the first time in four decades only after Michel retired.

  12. - chiatty - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:47 am:

    He was a gentleman and a true public servant. Gladly worked both sides of the aisle. The polar opposite of the Gingrich clones.

  13. - don the legend - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:50 am:

    Representative Michel was a first class gentleman and statesman. If Rauner and others had their way Mr. Michel would have been gone in 8 or 12 years and never would have made a difference.

  14. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:53 am:

    I turned against Rush Limbaugh years ago when he trashed Michel for being a “lapdog to the Democrats”. Michel was worthy of every praise given above and below. He didn’t do his fighting behind a microphone, and he never sent his maid to go score his drugs. Michel was a proud flag waver, Limbaugh a tireless flame-fanner.

  15. - HJohn - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:54 am:

    @wordslinger - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    After him, the GOP turned to the likes of Gingrich and Hastert

    Can always count on you to turn a condolences message into partisan mudslinging. Don’t forget, Bill Clinton gleefully take credit for everything Gingrich did, so it couldn’t have been as bad as you describe.

    RIP, Mr. Michel. Peace be with your family.

  16. - Bogey Golfer - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 10:55 am:

    Annually, Rep. Michel would field questions from Dr. Kal Goldberg’s Econ 100 class at Bradley. Goldberg’s class was held in the largest lecture hall on campus. Imagine being a freshman and asking a question to the Speaker of the U.S. House.

  17. - NoGifts - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    If we have term limits we will have not more titans of politics. Another argument against them.

  18. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    HJohn, try not to strain your juice with sanctimony. I miss the old real conservatives like Michel. I honor them by expressing that.

  19. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    One of the most partisan members of the US Senate, Dick Durbin cannot even eulogize someone without a partisan shot below the belt.

    ” Michel’s replacement as Republican leader in the U.S. House by Newt Gingrich marked the end of an era of civility in Congress. ”

    That was 1995, I guess he missed the lack of civility displayed by his party during the hearing for Supreme Court Justice nominee Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.

    It all started with Newt, I guess.

  20. - Bob Kustra - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    Senator Durbin said it best that all in public service should emulate what sums up Bob Michel best–”the face of decency and public service.” Unfortunately, there are few of those folks left in the House Bob Michel served so admirably.

  21. - winners and losers - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    Bogey Golfer - Bob was never Speaker. He was Minority Leader of the U.S. House for 14 years, from 1981 to 1995. He did not run again, largely because of Newt.

    His last Chief of Staff was Ray LaHood.

    His office as Minority Leader is the office now used by the Speaker. Newt first used it as Speaker. It is a beautiful suite of offices with a balcony that Bob seldom used (but now is often used due to its beautiful view down the Mall to the Washington and Lincoln monuments).

    Bob was an old style pol. His suits had a label in them: Made for Robert H. Michel.

    He became D.C., and remained there after he retired.

  22. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:24 pm:

    Bob Michel was what Republicans stood for in the “Heartland”, and not just the “Heart Of Illinois”, Peoria.

    Michel was someone I respected and admired, watching how he went about his business, not only for his District, but for his Country.

    Michel was a beacon for Republicans on how we should be, and how ideals and principles aren’t discarded for political expediency.

    Godspeed, Mr. Michel

    Oswego Willy

  23. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    ===It all started with Newt, I guess.===

    Yes it did. Well said. Glad we finally agree LP.

  24. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    Never missed him more.

    Pretty sure Bob Michel would have loved doing something like a grand bargain.

  25. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    The balanced budgets started with Newt, not the partisanship, unless you are into revisionist history.

    Did you miss those Supreme Court hearings, leaking of confidential FBI files and Ted Kennedy’s speech on the Senate floor?

  26. - Term Limits, LIKE ONE! - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:46 pm:

    I am sad. JFK to 911 Everything is a Rich Man’s Trick

  27. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 1:57 pm:

    How many hockey fans can name ten winners of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct on the ice)?

    Mayor Martin H. Kennelly had good manners and was polite to everyone. His mayoral nomination helped salvage the Chicago Democrats in 1947 after the Republican swept the 1946 elections. He was the epitome of civility. He is forgotten today.

    Richard J. Daley, the role model for Michael J. Madigan, was a political boss and a ward politician.

    So much for civility in politics. You gotta be the boss.

  28. - FormerParatrooper - Friday, Feb 17, 17 @ 2:05 pm:

    Rest in Peace. One of the very few politicians I ever met who had a good handshake and a honest smile.

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