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The Longest- Serving Black Congressman Has Died

John Conyers was known as the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 27, 2019 3:45 PM CDT
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In an April 11, 2016 file photo, Congressman John Conyers is seen during a ceremony in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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(Newser) – Former US Rep. John Conyers, one of the longest-serving members of Congress whose resolutely liberal stance on civil rights made him a political institution in Washington and back home in Detroit despite several scandals, has died, the AP reports. He was 90. Conyers, among the high-profile politicians topped by sex harassment allegations in 2017, died at his home on Sunday, said Detroit police spokesman Cpl. Dan Donakowski. The death "looks like natural causes," Donakowski added. Known as the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, which he helped found, Conyers became one of only six black House members when he was won his first election by just 108 votes in 1964. The race was the beginning of more than 50 years of election dominance.

Conyers regularly won elections with more than 80% of the vote, even after his wife went to prison for taking a bribe. That voter loyalty helped Conyers freely speak his mind. He took aim at both Republicans and fellow Democrats, and used his influence to push civil rights throughout his career. After a 15-year fight, he won passage of legislation declaring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, first celebrated in 1986. But after a nearly 53-year career, he became the first Capitol Hill politician to lose his job amid a wave of nationwide sexual-misconduct allegations. "My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now," Conyers said in December 2017. "This, too, shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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