On Monday, June 18, 2012, William Van Regenmorter, a retired state legislator, considered by many to be the “Father of Victims’ Rights” in the State of Michigan, passed away at age 73. Senator Van Regenmorter, recipient of the OVC National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2009 Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award, authored the Michigan Victims Bill of Rights Constitutional Amendment, which became law in 1988, as well as successive victim-related legislation. He had a major influence over the development of victims’ rights policy across the country, with the Michigan Victims Bill of Rights serving as the model in drafting Arizona’s law that, in turn, served as the model for many other states’ amendments.
Senator Van Regenmorter had a 24-year legislative career in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He authored Michigan’s first crime victims’ rights act, which was later named in his honor. In 1997, Mothers Against Drunk Driving established the William Van Regenmorter Award to be given to individuals and organizations that “exhibit outstanding leadership in the service of victims of crime.” He was also named Michigan’s Legislator of the Year 11 times, and the National Center for Victims of Crime named him National Legislator of the Year. Some of the key issues Senator Van Regenmorter’s work impacted included domestic violence, home invasion, faster resolution of child abuse cases, truth in sentencing, DNA profiling, and public services for persons with disabilities. Senator Van Regenmorter is the founder of the Michigan Crime Victim Foundation, which serves as a financial resource of last resort for victims who lack insurance or do not qualify for victim compensation. A stronger sense of victim empowerment has emerged as a result of his mission to ensure that all victims are afforded their much-deserved rights. In the Senator's own words, recorded through the Oral History Project, “victim empowerment has brought integrity to the system that wasn’t there before."
On June 20, 2012, Governor Rick Snyder ordered that U.S. flags throughout Michigan to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Senator Van Regenmorter and be returned to full-staff on Friday, June 22. He will be lovingly remembered by his family, friends, colleagues, and the victim services field.