Carl Milton Levin was born in Detroit, Michigan, on June 28, 1934, the youngest son of Bess Levinson and Saul Levin. His brother is Sander Levin, U.S. Representative for Michigan's 9th district. Carl Levin attended Detroit public schools, graduating from Central High School in 1952. He worked briefly as a line worker at a Ford tractor factory when he was 19 years old and went on to attend Swarthmore College. As a student, Levin was actively involved in student groups including serving on the student council, the American Student Government Movement, and Students for Democratic Action (SDA). In 1956, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and went on to attend Harvard Law School. Levin continued his student activism with SDA at Harvard and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1959. Upon graduation, Levin returned to Michigan and worked as an attorney at Grossman, Human and Gossman from 1959 to 1964, and taught law at the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University.
In 1961, Carl Levin married Barbara Halpern, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in mathematics from Colombia University, and a Bachelor of Laws from Wayne State University (1977). The Levins have three daughters -- Kate, Laura, and Erica.
Carl Levin left private law practice in 1964 to serve as general counsel for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission until 1967. He also served as special assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan and chief appellate defender for the city of Detroit (1968-1969). Levin began his political career in 1969 when he was elected to the Detroit Common Council, now the Detroit City Council (DCC). He served two four-year terms on the Council, including as President (1974-1977). During his tenure on DCC, Levin focused on issues such as discriminatory housing, lending, insurance practices, and redlining.
In 1978, Carl Levin, a member of the Democratic Party, was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating 13-year Republican incumbent Robert P. Griffin. During his tenure in the Senate, Levin served in many leadership roles including chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-chair of the Senate Auto Caucus, co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, and co-founder and chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management. Among Senator Levin's legislative accomplishments were the Enron investigations, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, financial regulation, campaign finance reform, environmental protections including helping to establish Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Keweenaw National Historical Park, early opposition to the Iraq War of 2003, government ethics and lobbying reform, and appropriations for the U.S. Military. Levin authored many bills, was noted for his in-depth research and preparation for committee hearings, and traveled abroad extensively as chair of the Armed Services Committee.
After 36 years of service, Carl Levin retired from the Senate on January 3, 2015 as Michigan's longest serving U.S. Senator. Upon retirement, Levin established the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School, where he serves as chair and distinguished legislator in residence.