DETROIT – Former Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. has died at the age of 90, the Detroit Police Department confirmed Sunday.
Conyers served more than 50 years in Congress, representing Detroit and some surrounding communities, becoming the sixth-longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history. He was the longest-serving African American member of Congress.
Conyers resigned in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment.
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A look back at Conyers' career
Congressman Conyers had an exceptionally long congressional career lived in two parts. Born in 1929 in Highland Park, Conyers attended Northwestern High School, then Wayne State University Law School. While in law school Conyers took at job working for John Dingell, one of a handful of men who served in Congress longer than Conyers.
Conyers' first election win was in 1964. He took the oath of office in 1965 during enormous political change. Early on, Conyers quickly found himself in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. He befriended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus, something famed New York African American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell was not enthusiastic about at the time.
"He looked at us and he said, 'What for? I represent black people in America. You don't need a caucus.' We were dumbfounded," said Conyers.
Conyers introduced the 1965 Voting Rights Act and has described a great relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson.
"His conscience, I think, kicked in, and he began to realize the inevitability of the President and the Congress doing the right thing and moving race relations forward," said Conyers.
Conyers had the opposite relationship with President Richard Nixon. He introduced the Impeachment Resolution, calling the vote "inescapable upon us."
President Nixon resigned before there was any impeachment vote.
Conyers later succeeded in establishing a national holiday for Dr. King's birthday. He believes getting that bill through Congress was one of his crowning achievements.
Still, Conyers suffered his share of defeats. He wrote of how he tried to stop the violence during the 1967 riots in Detroit but was shouted down and told to go home for his own safety.
Conyers also ran for Detroit mayor against Coleman Young twice, losing both times. Conyers nearly was not re-elected in 2014 when his staff failed to get sufficient signatures on the ballot. A legal fight reinstated him on the ballot and he won re-election.