Lawyers

Michiganians keep in mind Kelley: ‘the folks’s attorney common’

Michigan’s longest serving attorney general, Frank Kelley, knew how to work a room, the state’s former Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer recalled Saturday.

Kelley would shake every hand that was available and would often tell others that he liked to start “an election 100,000 handshakes ahead of the other guy,” Brewer said.

“It’s just classic retail politics,” the former party chairman said. “It wasn’t just an empty handshake. He would look you in the eye, shake your hand and engage with you. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you a successful politician.”

And Kelley was successful. He was Michigan’s attorney general for 37 years — from 1961 to 1999 — under five governors in the era mostly before term limits restricted office holders to a maximum of two, four-year terms. No prior attorney general had ever served longer than five years, said Jack Lessenberry, who co-wrote the longtime lawyer’s life story.

Kelley’s family announced his death at age 96 on Saturday. Tributes poured in from across the political spectrum.

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