Life of John Dingell, Jr. Remembered

UPDATE (February 8, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. EST): Congresswoman Dingell’s office has announced early plans for John Dingell’s memorial services in Washington, D.C.: On February 12, a motorcade carrying his casket will be driven past the U.S. Capitol on the East Plaza and public is welcome. Exact timing is to be determined.

Then, on February 14 at 10:30 a.m., a funeral mass will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 3513 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20007. This event is open to the public. A reception at Georgetown University will follow the service with further details to come.

Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Jr. died Thursday at 92, roughly one day after he had been transferred to hospice care as he continued to battle a prostate cancer diagnosis from last fall.

Long known as “The Dean” because he was the longest-serving member of Congress when he retired in early 2015, he was succeeded by his wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) shortly thereafter.

The news broke last night around 9 p.m. and was first reported by The Detroit News. Other outlets quickly followed, and statements came pouring in e-mail inboxes and Twitter, where John Dingell also became something of star for his sharp wit. The Detroit Free Press this morning published a collection of some of his best tweets.

Debbie Dingell confirmed her husband’s death on Facebook, saying, “To all our friends. My heart is broken. My true love is gone. The tears are flowing pretty freely as I miss the man that made me whole. One can know it is coming, but nothing prepares you for the hole in your heart. He was my one and only true love. Know he loved every one of and was proud to call you friend.”

Of course, long before Twitter was even a thought in an entrepreneur’s mind, John Dingell, Jr., who filled the shoes of his father, John Dingell Sr., upon his death in office, was well-known for the litany of accomplishments, not the least of which have shaped healthcare as America knows it through Medicaid and Medicare, as well as what eventually became the Affordable Care Act.

He was – and continued until his death – to be a staunch advocate for checks and balances in government, uncovering fraud and corruption, as the New York Times outlined in his obituary. The Washington Post also noted that, upon having brought forth the inquiry that landed a former Reagan adviser in hot water, he bemoaned that too often “The powerful can get away with things most people can’t.”

Shortly after announcing his retirement from Congress, John Dingell, Jr., was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in America, by then President Barack Obama in 2014.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex and on all State buildings be lowered to half-staff beginning Friday and returned to full-staff two days after his interment. Flags at the U.S. Capitol were also at half-staff in honor of John Dingell, and would stay that way through his interment.

The office of Congresswoman Debbie Dingell announced that services to memorialize John Dingell included a visitation at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn on February 11 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; a funeral mass at Church of the Divine Child in Dearborn on February 12 at 11 a.m., and a funeral service in Washington, D.C. whose date was to-be-determined. As a World War II veteran, John Dingell will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

There are no shortage of statements and memories from those who knew him, however personally, all of which also extended their condolences, thoughts, prayers, and more to Debbie Dingell and the Dingell family. Below are just a handful of statements (some have been shortened for length):

  • Former President Barak Obama: “John Dingell’s life reminds us that change does not always come with a flash, but instead with steady, determined effort. Over the course of the charge on so much of the progress we take for granted today … He had a long tradition of introducing legislation the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American. Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before.”
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden: “John Dingell was the Dean of the House. He earned that title – not just because he was there the longest – but because he led with great moral courage and vision. He was a friend and I will miss her terribly.”
  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer: “Today the great State of Michigan said farewell to one of our greatest leaders. John Dingell will forever be remembered as ‘The Dean’ of Congress not simply for the length of his service, but for his unparalleled record of legislative accomplishments. The Congressman’s grit, humility and humor taught us all that we can disagree without being disagreeable, while still finding common ground and working together to get things done. … We are a stronger, safer, healthier nation because of Congressman Dingell’s 59 years of service, and his work will continue to improve the lives of Michiganders for generations to come.”
  • The Levin Family (Former U.S. Rep Sandy Levin, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin): “The entire Levin family joins with the fullest sorrow in marking the passing of John Dingell. We know our sadness is shared by the multitude whose lives were touched and enhanced by his. He was a giant who deeply believed in public service and was rewarded with the public’s immense respect and gratitude. He was tough because he cared so deeply.”
  • State Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint): “Michigan lost a hero today. Congressman Dingell taught us to ‘do what’s right and never be afraid,’ a lesson he embodied in word and deed. From enlisting in the U.S. Army to defend our nation during World War II, to fighting in the halls of Congress for a better America by championing equal rights, clean air and water, and quality health care for every American, John Dingell’s story is one of selfless and tireless service to country.”
  • State House Democratic Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills): “The people of Michigan are mourning the loss of a tremendous leader, icon and friend today. Despite leaving office four years ago, Congressman Dingell remained a staple of modern political discourse, offering his witty insight and encouragement in times of despair. … His steadfast spirit, resilience, and enormous heart will continue to serve as an inspiration to us all.”
  • State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), who previously worked for John Dingell and whose district overlaps with the congressional district: “… Working for Congressman Dingell was the start of my political career, and I think back on the formative lessons and values I learned from his leadership every day. He always said to put people first and to fight for what’s right. To fight for justice, for jobs and healthcare, and for our land and water. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for him and his example. At this divided time in our country’s history, Congressman Dingell’s life is proof that public service in American government remains a noble calling—one that we must strive to answer as he did for over half a century.”
Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson