Carl Pursell, 76

Michigan's Carl Pursell Dies at 76; Led GOP Moderates in U.S. House

Carl Pursell served from '77 to '93.
Carl Pursell served from '77 to '93. (1981 Photo By The Washington Post)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Carl Pursell, 76, a Michigan Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993, died June 11 at his home in Plymouth, Mich. He had heart disease.

Mr. Pursell represented Michigan's lower peninsula, which includes the Detroit suburbs and Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located. During his career in the House, Mr. Pursell served on the Appropriations Committee and was the ranking Republican on the education subcommittee. He also won a seat on the Committee on Committees, the panel that makes assignments for House Republicans.

The Almanac of American Politics, a reference guide, described Mr. Pursell as "rumpled, chatty, usually inclined to seek consensus but ready to speak out when aroused." While serving on the Appropriations Committee in 1981, he became a leader of the "Gypsy Moths," a group of moderate and liberal Republicans who opposed the Reagan administration's budget cuts for social programs.

After a 1982 redistricting, which gave him a district that was largely Republican and more conservative than his previous district, he changed tactics, opting to pursue bipartisan compromise.

In 1990, his concern over the deficit prompted him to remove a $3 million Army Corps of Engineers project in his district from a spending bill, urging his colleagues to do the same.

Carl Duane Pursell was born Dec. 19, 1932, in Imlay City, Mich. He received a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a master's degree in education in 1962, both from Eastern Michigan University.

He served in the Army in the late 1950s and then worked as a teacher and a publisher and ran his own real estate firm before going into politics. He served on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and in the Michigan Senate before winning his U.S. House seat. He did not seek reelection in the U.S. House in 1992.

Mr. Pursell served on Eastern Michigan's board of regents from 1993 to 2000.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Peggy Brown Pursell of Plymouth; three children, Philip Pursell of Plymouth, Mark Pursell of Fairfax County and Kathleen Pursell Martin of Superior Township, Mich.; and seven grandchildren.

-- Rebekah Davis

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