Congress

William Broomfield, former House GOP foreign policy guru, dies

Michigan Republican, who died at 96, served in the House for 36 years

Then-Rep. William S. “Bill” Broomfield, R-Michigan, greets former President Richard Nixon as he arrives at Rayburn House Office Building in September 1992. A number of staffers and tourists awaited Nixon’s arrival to ask for an autograph. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. William Broomfield, a foreign affairs stalwart and popular advocate who represented his Michigan constituents for nearly four decades, died last week at the age of 96.

Broomfield, a Republican and World War II veteran, served in the House for 36 years, from 1957 through 1993. He died on Feb. 20, according to his family. 

For half of his time in the House — 18 years — he was the ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he helped shape GOP foreign policy during the Cold War.

“Like many of the greatest generation, he was a fiscal conservative and believed in the principle that democracy equaled freedom,” his family said. “He was unwavering in his support of Israel, South Korea, and Greece.”

Broomfield was renowned in his district that encapsulated Oakland County for his constituent work — often winning re-election by more than 70 percent of the vote.

His first political race was a lot closer.

In World War II, Broomfield served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He returned home to Royal Oak, Michigan, from the battlefield to begin his career as a real estate developer.

He won his first election for the Michigan House of Representatives at age 26 by 80 votes, his family said.

He ran for two more terms, and was elected speaker pro tem before his election to the Michigan Senate in 1954.

He left Lansing to run for Congress in 1956. He represented the district until his retirement in January 1993.

As a ranking Republican for so many years, Broomfield had to work with lawmakers and presidents from the opposing party in order to advance facets of the GOP’s foreign policy.

In 1967, he was appointed to the U.N. General Assembly by President Lyndon Johnson. At multiple points, Broomfield was a delegate to the anti-arms race SALT discussions, NATO and UNESCO.

“His reputation as a consensus builder was respected on both sides of the aisle and he received numerous awards for foreign policy achievements,” his family said.

Broomfield’s daughter, Nancy Broomfield Aiken, told Roll Call she remembers meeting President Jimmy Carter at a White House event when she was in her early 20s. She asked the president for his autograph.

Carter told her he did not do autographs. But when he heard that Aiken was “Bill’s daughter,” he pulled her aside so they could get a picture.

“I really admire your father,” Aiken remembers the Democratic president telling her.

Despite traveling the world on congressional delegations during one of the most complex geopolitical eras in history, Broomfield always considered himself just a kid from smalltown Michigan, his family said.

He felt an intense bond to his childhood friends in Royal Oak, where he is enshrined in the town’s Hall of Fame.

It was, after all, at Royal Oak High School where Broomfield began his political career, winning his first election for student council president in 1939.

“His heart was always in Royal Oak,” his daughter said.

He also enjoyed the pleasures of being a Washington insider — Broomfield was the president of the Republican Capitol Hill Club from 1970 to 1974.

Broomfield was married to his wife, Jane, for 62 years until her death in 2013. He is survived by his two daughters, Aiken and Barbara Shaffer, and four grandchildren.

Two memorial services will be held for Broomfield: one in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and another in Washington, D.C.

The family has not yet announced dates and locations for those services.

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