Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush announced that he is retiring from Congress and will not seek a 16th term in an office he’s held for 30 years. Rush held a news conference Tuesday to announce his retirement at a place fitting for a civil rights legacy he’s trailblazed: Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, where Emmett Till’s funeral was held more than 60 years ago.
Rush, a cofounder of the Black Panther Party’s Chicago chapter, has been advocating for racial justice while winning every primary and general election since he was first elected in 1992. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rush, who is also an ordained minister, says he will not seek reelection in Illinois’ 1st District, which includes Chicago, and looks forward to spending time with his family.
“I don’t want my grandchildren...to know me from a television news clip or something they read in a newspaper,” Rush said, according to the Sun-Times.
“I want them to know me on an intimate level, know something about me, and I want to know something about them. I don’t want to be a historical figure to my grandchildren.”
Rush is the 24th House Democrat to announce their retirement ahead of elections this year, the Sun-Times reports.
Here’s more from the Associated Press:
Rush, an ordained minister who preaches on Chicago’s South Side, said he would remain in the public eye and continue ministry after leaving Congress.
“I have been reassigned. Actually, I’m not retiring, I’m returning home. I’m returning to my church. I’m returning to my family. I have grandchildren. I’m returning to my passion,” he says in the video. “I will be in public life. I will be working hand in hand with someone who will replace me.”
Throughout his congressional career, Rush hasn’t avoided direct action. He was arrested in 2004 for blocking the driveway of Sudan’s embassy during a “protest demanding an end to genocide” in that country. He was in the headlines in 2012 for wearing a hooded sweat shirt on the House floor after the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, a move that earned him a reprimand for violating rules of wearing hats in the chamber.
He also raised eyebrows with some of his sharper comments, like when he dismissed an anti-violence plan by former Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk as a simplistic “white boy” solution to a complex problem.
He’s pushed legislation, named after Emmett Till, designating lynching as a hate crime under federal law. Till was a Black Chicago teen whose lynching in 1955 galvanized the civil rights movement.
Rush’s legacy includes being the only politician to ever beat former President Barack Obama. He defeated then-state Sen. Barack Obama in the 2000 Democratic primary for his 1st Congressional District seat.
Rush recently made headlines for being one of the latest members of Congress to catch COVID-19 toward the end of 2021.