Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.) (C ’49, LAW ’52), the longest-serving congressman in history, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election in the fall amid increasingly severe Congressional partisanship.
Dingell, 87, was no stranger to political life. The congressman was first elected to his seat in 1955, succeeding his late father, John D. Dingell Sr., who had held the seat since 1933. Having served in Congress for 58 consecutive years, Dingell is not only the longest-serving congressman, but also the longest serving dean of the House of Representatives and Michigan congressional delegation, respectively.
Serving under 11 presidencies from Eisenhower through Obama, Dingell never shied away from asserting his position. While the congressman supported fellow Democrat and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights bills, he opposed amendments to the bill that called for mandatory busing in Detroit. The congressman also made news in April 2006 when, alongside 10 other congressmen, Dingell unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of President George W. Bush’s Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 in U.S. District Court.
The congressman’s ties with Georgetown run deep — he attended Georgetown Preparatory and went on to earn both a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a Juris Doctor from the university. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia expressed his appreciation for Dingell’s service in a statement Monday.
“Through his decades of public service, and his thoughtful, careful leadership, Congressman Dingell has represented the very best of our Georgetown tradition. His longevity of service is a testament to his extraordinary dedication to his constituents and our nation,” DeGoia said.
The feeling was mutual, as Dingell expressed his appreciation for the values he learned at the university in a 2013 statement to The Hoya.
“Georgetown and the Jesuits gave me a great gift. They taught me about values, how to think and reason, and so much more that has benefitted me throughout my whole life. Simply put, Georgetown helped prepare me to become the man that I am,” Dingell wrote.
During his time in Congress, Dingell served as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and as a strong proponent of gun rights and organized labor. Dingell was noted among colleagues for beginning each Congressional term by presenting the same national health insurance bill that his father had proposed during his tenure.
Entering a Congressional landscape shaped by desegregation and the post-World War II communist scare sweeping Congress, Dingell is one of a number of veteran congressmen leaving the legislature amid cries of increasing partisanship.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious. It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets,” Dingell said at a luncheon Monday.
While no challengers to Dingell’s seat have emerged in the day since the congressman’s announcement, eyes are currently trained on former General Motors executive and Dingell’s wife of 38 years, Debbie Dingell.
Dingell’s constituents expressed that the congressman’s experience lent him a profound understanding of the workings of the American political system.
“I think that he was a good congressman because he was so experienced, and the important thing about having experienced congresspersons is that they know how to compromise and they know a lot about how the system works,” University of Chicago student and Ann Arbor, Mich. native Mari Cohen said.
Carolyn Gearig, a freshman at the University of Michigan from Troy, Mich. echoed Cohen’s remarks, noting that Dingell’s lengthy tenure reflected well on his work in Congress.
“It means that we voted in a good guy who obviously did a good enough job for a really long time, so it’s a good thing that shows political stability. It’s also nice to have change and progress in our state leadership,” Gearig said.