John Dingell, longest-serving congressman, dies at 92

John Dingell, longest-serving congressman, dies at 92
Former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., speaks at an event marking the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (File/AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Source: Susan Walsh)

(Gray News) - Former Rep. John Dingell Jr., the longest-serving member of Congress with a tenure of nearly 60 years as a lawmaker, passed away Thursday at the age of 92, The Washington Post reported.

Dingell entered hospice care after a cancer diagnosis, The Detroit News reported. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread and decided not to seek treatment.

His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who succeeded him in representing Michigan’s 12th District, was not at the State of the Union address on Tuesday because she was at her husband’s side.

She announced, “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. I will be taking each day as it comes. We thank people for their friendship and support and ask for prayers and privacy during this difficult time.”

He had been previously hospitalized in September over what his family said was a heart attack.

Dingell served in the House of Representatives as a Democrat from 1955 until his retirement in 2015.

When he first joined Congress, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. When he retired, Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. In all, he served with 11 presidents and 11 Speakers of the House.

His father, John Dingell Sr., also served in Congress. In fact, Dingell was elected to the 84th Congress in a special election to succeed his late father, and, at age 29, was the youngest member serving at the time.

In all, the Dingells - John Sr., John Jr. and Debbie - have represented Michigan in Congress for 85 years.

Dingell served in Congress 21,572 days - or 59 years, 22 days - taking over the longest-serving Congressman title from Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia in 2013, according to the historian of the U.S. House of Representatives. He cast 28,551 votes in the House chamber.

Dingell fought for landmark pieces of legislation, from civil rights legislation in the 1960s, to environmental legislation in the 1970s, as well as healthcare throughout his career, from Medicare to the Affordable Care Act. These noteworthy issues were cited as the reasons Dingell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2014.

He joined the Energy and Commerce Committee in 1957, serving on the group 21,178 days - or 57 years, 11 months, 25 days, until he left the committee upon his retirement in 2015. Dingell Jr. chaired this committee from 1981 to 1995, and from 2007 to 2009. During his time on the committee, he oversaw legislation dealing with the environment, telecommunications and the auto industry.

Dingell had a successful political career, winning 30 elections by an average of 73 percent of the vote, the House historian said.

Born in Colorado Springs, CO, on July 8, 1926, he attended Capitol Page School in Washington, DC, and Georgetown Preparatory School in Garrett Park, MD.

He served as a House page from 1938 to 1945. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946.

Dingell graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1952 before entering private practice. He worked as a research assistant for Circuit Judge Theodore Levin before becoming an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County, MI.

Despite his health problems, Dingell kept his eyes on current events and provided commentary via his Twitter page - for instance providing a snarky comment about former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s potential White House bid and throwing cold water on Starbucks’ supposed popularity.

He had often been critical of the current president, calling him an “idiot” recently over the government shutdown.

Dingell also offered tips to the newest members of Congress in January, dispensing timeless advice he received in 1955, back when he was a freshman congressman.

“For the next six months, you’re going to wonder how the hell you got here," he tweeted. "Then one day you’ll come on to the House floor, look around, and wonder how in the hell all the other fools got here.”

A book of his was published in December, “The Dean: The Best Seat in the House.”

Copyright 2019 Gray Television Group, Inc. All rights reserved.