WASHINGTON, D.C. — The longest-serving Congressman in U.S. history has died. Former Michigan U.S. Representative John David Dingell Jr. was 92 years old.
The Colorado native served in the U.S. House from December 1955 until January 2015 – nearly 60 years. That’s 11 presidencies, from Eisenhower to Obama. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November of 2014, according to FOX 17 Detroit affiliate FOX 2.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow issued a written statement that read, in part:
“Congressman John Dingell—the Dean of the House and my dear friend—was not merely a witness to history. He was a maker of it. His original family name, translated into Polish, meant ‘blacksmith.’ Nothing could be more fitting for a man who hammered out our nation’s laws, forging a stronger union that could weather the challenges of the future…”.
U.S. Senator Gary Peters sent a written statement:
“Chairman Dingell was a true statesman: he embodied the values, spirit and dedication that all public servants should aspire to have. He was a mentor to me and countless others who sought to give back to their communities. I will never forget his wise counsel as I learned my way around Congress…Colleen and I are grieving with Debbie and the Dingell family as we remember the extraordinary Dean of the House. We will miss you Mr. Chairman.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered flags lowered on all statebuildings and within the State Capitol Complex on Friday in Dingell’s honor. Whitmer issued a statement in a news release Thursday night. It read, in part:
“Today, the great State of Michigan said farewell to one of our greatest leaders. John Dingell will forever be remembered as ‘The Dean’ of Congress, not simply for the length of his service, but for his unparalleled record of legislative accomplishments…”.
The Dearborn Democrat had been battling prostate cancer that metastasized. He was still strong enough Wednesday to post a tweet on Twitter, thanking those who had expressed concern and referencing his wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell:
“The Lovely Deborah is insisting I rest and stay off here, but after long negotiations we’ve worked out a deal where she’ll keep up with Twitter for me as I dictate the messages. I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind words and prayers. You’re not done with me just yet.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell had tweeted on Wednesday, “I am home with John and we have entered a new phase. He is my love and we have been a team for nearly 40 years.”
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said in a written statement issued by the Michigan Republicans, “John Dingell was an incredible public servant who will be greatly missed. While we didn’t always agree on issues, I enjoyed Congressman Dingell’s company and admired his patriotism, his love for our state, and our shared love for the University of Michigan. My deepest sympathies go out to Congresswoman Dingell and the entire Dingell family.”
West Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga said in a written statement, “”John Dingell was a fierce advocate for Michigan and a titan of the House who worked with a servant’s heart. While there were areas where we disagreed, I had no doubt that John’s passion and positions were well founded. I will remember John as someone who always fought for the House of Representatives’ constitutional standing. My heart and prayers go out to Debbie and the entire Dingell family.”
Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg said in a news-release statement: ““I count it a privilege to have served with John Dingell in the House and to represent a part of his former district. He was a towering figure in this institution and left a mark that few can match. Throughout his lifetime of public service, John was a fierce advocate for the people of Michigan and was guided by a love of country. In this hour of mourning, may God provide comfort to Debbie and the entire Dingell family.”
Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes’ statement to the media read, in part, “John Dingell was The Dean and more. He was and will remain the embodiment of what it means to be a Michigan Democrat: hard-working, selfless, and relentless in his pursuit to improve the lives of the everyday people who built our state and make it great…his charm, wit, and devotion touched everyone who knew him, and his legacy will inspire millions more for generations to come. He will be incredibly missed, but John Dingell will never be forgotten.”
Congressman Dingell was a longtime supporter of universal health care, a cause he adopted from his late father, whom he replaced in Congress in 1955. He also was known as a dogged pursuer of government waste and fraud, and even helped take down two top presidential aides while leading the investigative arm of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chaired for 14 years.
“I’ve gotten more death threats around here than I can remember,” Dingell told The Associated Press in a 1995 interview. “It used to bother my wife, but oversight was something we did uniquely well.”
Dingell had a front-row seat for the passage of landmark legislation he supported, including Medicare, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, but also for the Clean Air Act, which he was accused of stalling to help auto interests. His hometown, the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, was home to a Ford Motor Co. factory that was once the largest in the world.
Yet one of his proudest moments came in 2010, when he sat next to Obama as the $938 billion health care overhaul was signed into law. Dingell had introduced a universal health care coverage bill in each of his terms.
“Presidents come and presidents go,” former President Bill Clinton said in 2005, when Dingell celebrated 50 years in Congress. “John Dingell goes on forever.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.