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Robert Henry "Bob" Michel (born March 2, 1923 in Peoria, Illinoismarker) is a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinoismarker.

Michel grew up in Peoria. When the Second World War broke out, he joined the United States Army and served with the 39th Infantry regiment as an infantryman in Englandmarker, Francemarker, Belgiummarker, and Germanymarker from February 10, 1943, to January 26, 1946. He was wounded by machine gun fire and awarded two Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and four battle stars.

After the war, he attended Bradley Universitymarker in Peoria, graduating in 1948. From 1949 to 1956, he worked as an administrative assistant to U.S. Representative Harold Velde.

He was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1956 and served until his retirement on January 3, 1995. Michel served as Minority Whip from 94th Congress through the 96th Congress. Later, he served as Minority Leader from the 97th Congress through 103rd Congresses. A moderate, Michel was criticized by Newt Gingrich and other young, aggressive conservative congressmen for being too easy-going and not fighting hard enough for Republican goals in the House during its long period of Democratic control. Michel had one of the most ill-timed retirements in history in 1995. Had he run and been re-elected (which he almost certainly would have been) he would have become Speaker of the House in the next Congress. In addition, had he run in 1994 and won, Michel would have served in a Republican-controlled House for the first time in his entire Congressional career. Republicans held a majority in the House from 1953-54, lost control in the 1954 mid-term elections, and then remained in the minority until they regained control in the 1994 mid-term elections. .

On January 18, 1989, outgoing president Ronald Reagan conferred upon him the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian award given, making him the 7th recipient of the honor. On August 8, 1994, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President Bill Clinton.

Michel stirred a minor controversy in the early 1990s when he fondly recalled minstrel shows in which he had participated in blackface as a young man, expressing his regret that they had fallen out of fashion.

While in Congress, Michel was the usual pitcher in the annual Democrats vs. Republicans baseball game.

Namesakes and honors

The Bob Michel Bridge, carrying Route 40 across the Illinois River in Peoria, is named after Robert H. Michel, as is the Robert H. Michel Student Center at Bradley Universitymarker.

In the Capitol, the second-floor suite of offices occupied by the Speaker were designated the Robert H. Michel Rooms by the House in 1995.


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