Gov. George Romney has the distinction of using the EPGA for the first time. He also used it on more occasions than any other governor. The first time was in 1964 when a labor strike at the Essex Wire Corporation led to violent confrontations in the city of Hillsdale. The city’s mayor called on the state for aid, and Gov. Romney issued the emergency declaration, reasoning that local police authorities would not be able to maintain the peace.
The governor’s order prohibited picketing and public assemblies, temporarily closed the Essex Wire factory, restricted traffic, established a countywide curfew and called in about 1,000 National Guard troops to preserve peace between union strikers, nonunion workers and supporters of the company. The declared emergency came to an end in less than two weeks, as the union and company agreed to a new union contract.
Gov. Romney’s use of the EPGA was immediately called into question. In a column titled “The Questions Linger,” the Detroit Free Press editorial board summarized their concern:
The Essex Wire Corp. strike in Hillsdale is over, but questions linger on. Many of the questions are aimed at the 19-year-old law that was used for the first time by Governor Romney to keep someone from being killed. […] During the crisis, Attorney General Frank Kelley told Romney the law empowered him to act as he did, but no one knows for certain. Was the closing of the plant an unconstitutional seizure of private property? Was the freedom of the press illegally curtailed? Was the restriction on picketing a violation of freedom of speech?
These questions were serious enough that Attorney General Kelley appointed a panel of 11 legal scholars to review the constitutionality of the EPGA and suggest any changes that may be needed. The attorney general said the state “should have any legal doubts settled to the greatest extent possible” before the next crisis. Unfortunately, newspaper accounts do not appear to have reported the results of this review. The EPGA was left unchanged, so either these legal experts found no need to amend it or their recommendations were ignored for one reason or another.
Despite these legal concerns, Gov. Romney would use the EGPA seven more times. A large riot broke out in Detroit on July 23, 1967, and smaller ones emerged in Flint and Grand Rapids in the subsequent days. Gov. Romney declared separate, local emergencies in all three instances. The orders established curfews, forbid possessing a weapon in public, outlawed public assemblies and the sale of alcohol and limited the sale of gasoline. Those emergency declarations lasted about two weeks.
The next year, rioting broke out in cities nationwide after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. The following day, Gov. Romney declared three separate emergencies: one for Wayne County, one for the cities and surrounding areas of Fraser and Mt. Clemens, and one for the cities and surrounding areas of Royal Oak and Clawson. Later that summer, civil disturbances surfaced in Grand Rapids, and the governor again used the EPGA to declare an emergency there.
All told, Gov. Romney used the EPGA eight times between 1964 and 1968, all in response to local rioting or similar civil disturbances.
[Author's note: See Update and Corrections for the most recent information.]
 “Bayonets Surrounding Hillsdale Bargaining” (The Herald-Press, May 29, 1964), https://perma.cc/2ZGL-Y7AH.
 “Near Marial Law Declared in Hillsdale” (Lansing State Journal, May 28, 1964), https://perma.cc/MJF2-7QE7.
 “Workers Return at Essex” (Lansing State Journal, June 10, 1964), https://perma.cc/JKK4-NKK5.
 “The Questions Linger” (Detroit Free Press, June 22, 1964), https://perma.cc/5GJ8-MWHU.
 “Emergency Act Study Ordered” (Lansing State Journal, June 11, 1964), https://perma.cc/732A-K42Z.
 The feedback from this panel may be available in the historic papers of Gov. George Romney or Attorney General Frank Kelley that are housed at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the university does not currently allow visitors to the library.
 “Executive Order No. 1967-3” (State of Michigan, July 23, 1967), https://perma.cc/3AZ4-CTAH; “Executive Order No. 1967-4” (State of Michigan, July 25, 1967), https://perma.cc/ 3RNZ-JJZQ; “Executive Order No. 1967-5” (State of Michigan, July 25, 1967), https://perma.cc/QM6Q-SLJA.
 “Detroit Emergency Lifted; Last Troops Withdrawn,” (The Battle Creek Enquirer and News, Aug. 7, 1967), https://perma. cc/W9AW-ZTPN.
 “Executive Order No. 1968-1” (State of Michigan, April 5, 1968), https://perma.cc/4DB4-9NLE; “Executive Order No. 1968-2” (State of Michigan, April 5, 1968), https://perma.cc/ MR98-62K5; “Executive Order No. 1968-3” (State of Michigan, April 5, 1968), https://perma.cc/9W6P-SJGT.
 “Executive Order 1968-8” (State of Michigan, July 27, 1968), https://perma.cc/KU3Q-T32A.