Topline: Congressman John Conyers, one of the longest-serving lawmakers in the House of Representatives, whose five-decade career included the championing of civil rights, has died at the age of 90.
- Conyers, the longest-serving black lawmaker ever in Congress, died of natural causes, according to AP. In a statement, Conyers’ family said: “Congressman Conyers was a devoted father and husband and his world revolved around securing justice against racial and economic discrimination. …His legacy and advocacy for human rights will live on forever.”
- He died in Detroit, the city in which he grew up and which he represented parts of during his 53-year tenure in Congress.
- Tributes to the congressman remembered him as a “champion of civil rights” and recalled his efforts to introduce the Martin Luther King national holiday and his key role in establishing the Congressional Black Caucus.
- He is survived by sons John and Carl, and wife Monica.
Key background: A veteran of the Korean War, Conyers later trained as a lawyer and entered the House in 1965. Almost immediately after King’s death in 1968, Conyers introduced a bill calling for the MLK Day national holiday. He doggedly pursued the bill until it was made law in 1983. Civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks was employed by him in his Detroit offices before she retired in 1988. Conyers was also an outspoken critic of the Iraq war and was the first black lawmaker to sit on the House Judiciary Committee as chairman. He sat in on the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. In 1989 and 1993, he ran for Detroit mayor but lost both times. He was inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2005.
His 53-year career ended in December 2017 after a number of women who had worked for the congressman claimed they had been sexually assaulted by him. He resigned following calls from senior Democrats, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi and was the first sitting politician to do so amid sweeping revelations and allegations of sexual misconduct in the nation’s corridors of power, Hollywood and beyond. Conyers denied any wrongdoing. “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” he said at the time.
Reactions: During a rally, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders paid tribute to Conyers, a “champion for civil rights.”
Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said he was “deeply saddened” by Conyers’ death, adding: “From cofounding the Congressional Black Caucus to leading the fight in Congress to enshrine Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday, John Conyers’ impact on our city and nation will never be forgotten,” Reuters reported.
Representative Jerry Nadler tweeted: “His legacy, as a champion of civil rights and progressive values, is one I try to build upon every day.”
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted: “He never once wavered in fighting for jobs, justice and peace.”
On Sunday, Reverend Jesse Jackson described Conyers as one of the “most consequential congressmen.”