Carl Levin overwhelmed by naval destroyer in his name

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Having a naval destroyer named after him is an honor that former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin says caught him off guard and brought tears to his eyes.

The 81-year-old long-term Democratic Detroit lawmaker shared the story Monday during an official naming ceremony for the ship, USS Carl M. Levin, as he reflected on his deep commitment to the country’s armed service members.

“I did not expect it. I didn’t seek it,” Levin told reporters inside the General Motors Renaissance Center on Detroit’s riverfront. “It’s such an honor for me to be connected with the men and women who put on our uniform. It’s too difficult to describe any other way than overwhelming.”

The ship named after Levin, known currently just as DDG-120, is part of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke class of vessels. Ships in the Arleigh Burke class are typically about 500 feet long and they usually move at a speed of about 31 knots, or 35 miles per hour.

The ship will be constructed at Bath Iron Works in Maine and is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2020.

Levin is a former chairman of the Senate Arms Service Committee. He served in the Senate from 1979 to 2014 but decided in March 2013 not to seek re-election at a time when political winds turned out to heavily favor Republicans. He was replaced by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who bestowed the honor, said Monday he regards Levin as one of the “most influential” members of the Senate.

“Destroyers are named for heroes,” Mabus, the Navy’s longest serving secretary, told the crowd of about 300 gathered for the program. “Carl Levin is an American hero.”

Mabus said many Navy ships have been named for individuals as well as for members of Congress. Levin, he said, was named based on his dedication to ensuring the sailors and marines had what they needed to do the job and support back home.

“For over 36 years, he’s stood up for our men and service women,” he said. “He also was insistent on integrity, honesty and transparency in government. He’s the epitome to me of civility.”

Monday’s ceremony was also attended by numerous prominent officials, including: Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon, Detroit Council President Brenda Jones, Westland Mayor William Wild as well as U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn and John Conyers, D-Detroit. Levin’s older brother and mentor, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, was also at his side for the honor.

Levin noted Monday that his wife of 54 years, Barbara, was the sponsor of the USS Detroit, the sixth U.S. warship to be named after Detroit.

Peters, a former member of the U.S. Navy reserves, also offered remarks Monday about his predecessor, touting Levin’s accomplishments and leadership.

“Carl knew how to get things done. He represents the best of public service,” he said. “We are forever indebted for what he’s done.”

Levin, who was the longest serving senator in Michigan history, retired in January 2015. He’s now serving as senior counsel at Detroit law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP. He is also chairman of the Levin Center at Wayne State University’s Law School.

“I’m so proud of having a small part of making sure that this country always stands for values in war and in peace,” Levin said. “We thank our troops for honoring — in war and in peace — what our country has stood for.”

CFerretti@detroitnews.com