Crusader Staff Report
Funeral services are set for Congressman John Conyers, the longest-serving Black in the U.S. Congress.
There will be two public viewings in Detroit prior to the burial of Conyers, who died at the age of 90 on Sunday.
Conyers will lie in repose at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Conyers’
Conyers’ funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Greater Grace Temple in northwest Detroit.
Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus who for five decades fought for civil rights as the nation’s longest-serving Black in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Black Caucus released a statement in response to Conyers’ death.
“The Congressional Black Caucus mourns the loss of one of its founding members, the longest-serving African American in Congress, and the former Dean of the House – Congressman John Conyers.
“A son of Detroit and champion of civil rights, Mr. Conyers lived a life dedicated to serving the community in which he was raised. He leaves a legacy of more than five decades of systematic change that continues to transform our country for the better to this day.”
Conyers’ death came 10 days after U.S. House of Representatives’ Elijah Cummings died following a 23-year career serving Baltimore’s Seventh District.
Conyers chaired the Government Oversight and Reform Committee (formerly the Government Operations Committee) and was the first African American to chair the influential Judiciary Committee.
In 1971, Conyers and the late Congressman Ron Dellums were among 12 Blacks who founded the Congressional Black Caucus, which represented people of color serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Today, the Black Caucus has grown to 55 members.
In its tribute, the Black Caucus called Conyers a “trailblazer,” one who fought for “liberal issues that eventually became mainstream.”
“Congressman Conyers was more than a founding member. He was a guiding light. We will continue his vision by serving as the “Conscience of the Congress” in pursuit of justice for all Americans. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, sons, family, and friends.”
In 1984 Conyers strongly supported Reverend Jesse Jackson’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was an early supporter of candidate Barack Obama, who was then a Democratic senator from Illinois.
Conyers saw generations of change as he fought to achieve civil rights for Blacks in his district and America. In 1965, he co-sponsored the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited discrimination during elections.
During the Vietnam War, Conyers became a fierce critic and was placed on President Richard M. Nixon’s “enemies list” of political opponents. In 2001, Conyers voted against the USA Patriot Act, fearing that it would roll back civil liberties. He later suggested that President George W. Bush should be impeached, accusing him of misleading the country ahead of the U.S. invasion in Iraq in 2003.
Four days after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, Conyers with the support of Coretta Scott King, proposed a bill to call for a federal holiday to honor the slain civil rights leader. It would be the first of many bills that would fail before the late Congresswoman Katie Hall from Gary, Indiana succeeded with her bill for a King Holiday in 1983.
Conyers also hired civil rights activist Rosa Parks in his Detroit office for 20 years. He introduced numerous bills calling for reparations for the descendants of slaves, a demand that is growing in popularity in Black America as racial tensions and division continue to escalate in cities across the nation.
In 1989, Conyers ran for mayor of Detroit against incumbent Coleman A. Young. After finishing third in the primary, he ran for mayor again and lost.
Conyers was born in Detroit on May 16, 1929. He graduated from the city’s Northwestern High School, a public school that produced many prominent Motown artists and accomplished graduates in sports and law. He served with the U.S. Army in the Korean War.
In 1957, he graduated from Detroit’s Wayne State University and obtained a law degree from the school the following year.
He practiced law and worked in auto plants in Detroit before working for three years as a legislative assistant to former U.S. Representative John Dingell, (D-Dearborn) where he was a legislative assistant for three years. In 1964, at just 35, Conyers ran for a seat in Detroit’s First Congressional District. Despite doubts and criticism that he was too young Conyers won the primary and won by a landslide in the general election.
As the U.S. Representative for Detroit’s 13th Congressional District, Conyers would go on to get re-elected 26 times, earning him the title “the dean of the House of Representatives.”
Conyers resigned in 2017 after being accused of sexual misconduct by several of his female staff members. Conyers denied the allegations.
During his resignation, Conyers said defiantly, “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we are going through now. This too, shall pass.”