Longest Serving Black Congressman John Conyers Jr. Passes Away at 90

Photo: Lawrence Jackson (AP)

John Conyersthe longest-serving black congressman in U.S. historyhas passed away.

The Michigan Democrat who represented Detroit died Sunday at age 90.

PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor broke the news on Twitter that he died in his sleep, after confirming the death with family members.

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A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Highland Park, Mich., native graduated from Detroit’s Northwestern High School, served in the Korean War and went on to graduate from Wayne State University with a law degree before working with labor union locals in the Detroit area.

Active in the Civil Rights Movement, Conyers was endorsed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and voted in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964.

Early on as a congressman, he played a major role in more than 100 pieces of key legislation, including the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Photo: AP

Other career highlights include being a driving force behind the Motor Voter Bill of 1993 and the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

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He fought for 15 years to make King’s birthday a national holiday and worked to pass bills for universal healthcare.

Though he lost two campaigns to become Detroit mayor while still serving in Congress, Capitol Hill was where he reigned supreme for 53 years.

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In 2017, his longtime and revered career in politics came to a screeching halt when former staffers came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.

Though he denied the claims, he retired from Congress, somewhat gracefully.

“I cannot allow the great work of this body to be distracted from their important work or the goals of the Democratic Party to be distracted,” he wrote in a statement.

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“Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring. I hope that my retirement will be viewed in the larger perspective of my record.”

 

 

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About the author

Karu F. Daniels

Hailing from "the thorough borough" of Brooklyn, Mr. Daniels has written for The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Essence, VIBE, NBC News, The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News and Word Up!