Stevie Wonder, former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Maxine Waters and, of course, the Conyers family are preparing to wish John Conyers a farewell at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. The former U.S. Representative died Sunday, Oct. 27 at 90 years old.
Conyers was the third-longest serving House member in U.S. history, just behind his predecessors John Dingle and John Dingle Jr., and the longest serving African American to ever hold the position. His purview included large parts of his home turf – Detroit’s west side and downriver.
Born and raised in Highland Park, Conyers graduated Northwestern High School in the 1940s and served his country in combat before he ever served in office. After stints in the Michigan National Reserve and in the Army during the Korean War, Conyers hung his medals up and pursued a college education at Wayne State University. He ran for Congress in 1965 and hit the ground running as an unapologetic champion for his community.
“I am more than saddened by the loss of such a dear friend, colleague and political pioneer,” says Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. “John Conyers Jr. spent a lifetime in public service, leading the charge on civil rights, social justice and equality for people of color in America. His life and legacy will continue to impact many generations to come.”
As far as Conyers was concerned, liberal legislation was the only valid legislation. During his tenure as a congressman he spoke up adamantly for the civil rights movement and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Martin Luther King Jr. Day wouldn’t have been a federal holiday if not for Conyers; he was the one that proposed the measure in a bill he submitted four days after the assassination and fought for until it became law.
Conyers’ career wasn’t spotless. He resigned his House seat in 2017 after sexual abuse and harassment allegations began to pile up against him, as well as accusations that he had used public funds to settle the cases. He maintained his innocence until his passing. While the accusations are disheartening and disappointing, they don’t take away from Conyers’ tireless legacy fighting for Detroit and her citizens.
Conyers worked closely with Rosa Parks after she moved to Detroit. He helped impeach Nixon and sparred famously with former President George W. Bush. He introduced the H.R.40 bill to examine the legacy of slavery and reparations – and kept pushing it every time it failed, every year, until his resignation. He marched against the spread of war and global conflict, and took up a personal crusade against voter suppression.
Senator Gary Peters from Michigan says, “Congressman Conyers dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights. While serving in Congress with him, I saw firsthand his dedication and passion for his beloved city of Detroit and the Congressional district he represented.”
Watch John Conyers’ funeral service live at WXYZ Detroit.