LANSING, MI – Former Michigan Attorney General Frank J. Kelly died late Friday evening, March 5th, 2021, in Florida.
Kelley died late on Friday evening of natural causes, at the age of 96-years-old, at an assisted living facility in Naples, Florida.
Mr. Kelly held the position of Michigan Attorney General longer than anyone else has in the history of our state. He held that position for 37 years.
In 1961 he became the 50th Attorney General for the State of Michigan when he was appointed by Governor John Swainson to fill the vacancy left when Paul L. Adams became a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Frank Kelley held that office, from 1961 to 1999. When he took office, it made him both the youngest, at 36 years old, and the oldest at 74 years old, in the history of the state. For that he earned the nickname as the “Eternal General.” He had also held the spot of being the longest serving state attorney general in United States history. That was finally surpassed by Tom Miller of Iowa in 2019. Kelley still holds the record for longest continuous attorney general.
For those who remember what it was like to go to a county fair many years ago, it was not uncommon to see Mr. Kelly walking among those who were there to have a good time on the rides and watch the judging of various types of livestock. Frank Kelly was known to be a very kind man. He held steady in his beliefs when applying the laws. He constantly put those beliefs into his work and to his dedication to the people of the State of Michigan.
Current Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released the following statement:
“It is with a heavy heart that I join you in mourning the passing of former Attorney General Frank Kelley.
Mr. Kelley was an extraordinary man, the quintessential public servant, and a legend in his own time. Having served as Michigan’s attorney general for 37 years, he was, on his retirement in 1999, the longest serving state attorney general in the country, earning the nickname of the “Eternal General.”
During those many years of service, he was a beacon to the State, a mentor to many, and a valued advisor to notable public officials. And his energy and genuine passion for public service inspired countless others to likewise dedicate their talents in service to the People of Michigan.
Mr. Kelley’s accomplishments are legion: He was the first attorney general in the country to establish Consumer Protection, Criminal Fraud, and Environmental Protection divisions; his influence led to the passage of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act; he was a leading figure in the tobacco settlement that benefitted Michigan and many other states; and he served as the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, a group that honored him by naming its most prestigious award—the Kelley-Wyman Award for outstanding service and national contributions—after him.
As extraordinary as his accomplishments were, many will best remember Mr. Kelley for his humor, friendship, and humanity. He will be sorely missed.”