U .S. Rep. Bob Michel only once officially wielded the Speaker's gavel. Coming to the close of his 38th year in Congress, the longtime minority leader got the chance when Democratic Speaker Tom Foley crossed the aisle and let him gavel the proceedings to order the night of Nov. 29, 1994. It was a gesture of bipartisanship, but the embrace between the two men also bespoke friendship. "Those feelings between leaders are all but gone," just-retired Associated Press reporter Alan Fram wrote last year. That moment and the bipartisanship it showcased are among the many enduring legacies left behind by Michel, who was born a century ago this month. ‘HE SHOWED US THAT CONSENSUS IS NOT WEAKNESS AND .. COMPROMISE IS NOT CAPITULATION’ — Sen. Richard Durbin Michel exemplified America’s perception of a responsible public servant, with a reputation for civility and decency yearned for in op-eds and commentary during January’s prolonged House speakership votes. But he also left a legacy that touches the Peoria area to this day, through his legislative work and his behavior. A young Bob Michel poses during his time in the U.S. Army. Michel served in France during World War II, landing at Normandy four days after D-Day. He was wounded in action later that year

Family members crowd into the official campaign car during Bob Michel's first campaign for Congress in 1956. He'd go on to win re-election 18 more times

out that that was probably one of the bigger lessons in life I learned," Michel recalled in retirement. After running Velde's office for eight years, Michel succeeded him in 1957, re maining in Congress for the next 38 years. RISING IN THE RANKS ON CAPITOL HILL In the capital, the affable everyman made a name for himself. Beyond his work ethic, another skill helped him build friendships and connections: singing. Music was foundational to Michel, who met his wife Corinne through Bradley's music program. His reputation as a songbird helped him connect on Capitol Hill with like-minded members. He also credited those performance skills with helping his public speaking. It didn’t take long to land on the road to success. Michel was named to the powerful Appropriations Committee during his second of 19 terms, quite literally by chance. He and suburban colleague Harold Collier were under consideration for Illinois’ seat on the panel. The men, who roomed together, agreed to flip a coin for it, an endeavor that took two tries after the first flip landed on the floor and rolled on its edge to the baseboard. Michael developed a reputation as a fiscal hawk after constituents told him, “Bob, your charge is to get down there to Washington, cut the cost of government, Bob Michel speaking at the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin in September 1989. Michel's complete archives from his public-service career are kept there for research

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Michel was born on March 2, 2023 and grew up modestly on the city's East Bluff, worked hard inside and outside the classrooms of Peoria High School and entered hometown Bradley University. But then World War II intervened and Michel joined the Army, landing at Normandy among the waves of troops following the D-Day invasion. Seriously wounded months later at the Battle of the Bulge, the combat infantryman returned to the States and re-entered Bradley on the G.I. Bill. What he later called a "quirk of fate" shortly before graduation set him onto a career path that would define the next half-century. With then-Rep. Everett Dirksen's pending retirement from the House due to an eye ailment, successor Harold Velde, a Pekin judge, was lining up a staff. Velde's pal, Bradley President David Owen, pulled Michel into his office to recruit him after having seen his activity on campus. Michel initially demurred with his trademark humility, protesting that he'd taken classes in business, not speech, political science and journalism. Be open, Owen counseled, and have the meeting. "I could have very well said, 'Oh, I don’t want to go down for that interview. That’s just so far afield for me,' but I was pliable and amenable, and I found


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