John Dingell was an American politician and the longest serving Congressman in the history of the United States of America. He served as a member of the United States House of Representatives for 60 years, between 1955 and 2015. After completing his Juris Doctor in 1952, John indulged in many professions, including law and forest ranging; he forayed into politics in 1955 after the death of his father. His father had held the seat as a representative of Michigan’s 15th congressional district for 22 years and John took the baton after his father’s demise. John left the office in January 2015, after serving for more than 59 years. In 2014, he announced that he would not be contesting any more elections, and the same year, he was awarded the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ by President Barack Obama.
Childhood & Early Life
John Dingell was born John David Dingell Jr., on July 8, 1926, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to John Dingell Sr. and Grace Bigler. His father had Australian and Polish ancestry while his mother had Scotish and Irish ancestry.
While they lived in Michigan, at the time of John’s birth they were staying in in Colorado Springs to find a cure for his father’s tuberculosis. Following a successful treatment, the family moved back to Michigan. When John was about 6 years old, his father was appointed the representative of the newly formed 15th district of the state of Michigan. Following his father’s entry into the ‘House of Representatives,’ the family moved to Washington D.C.
John attended ‘Georgetown Preparatory School’ and later the ‘House Page School.’ He served as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives and was in the house while President Roosevelt was delivering his famous speech following the attack on ‘Pearl Harbour.’
John joined the United States Army toward the end of the ‘Second World War.’ . He was very quickly promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and took part in the invasion of Japan in November 1945; Japan surrendered soon after. John later stated that the use of atomic bombs on Japan saved his life.
Following the culmination of the war, John resumed his studies and attended ‘Georgetown University’ in Washington D.C. and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, followed by a Juris Doctor in 1952.
As he did not have any interest in pursuing science as a career, he chose to practice law and then worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney and a Congressional employee. He entered politics after the death of his father in 1955.
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Elections were held to elect the candidate to replace John Dingell sr. in the House of Representatives for the 15th district of Michigan. John contested the 1955 elections and won. Thereafter he won a full term in 1956 elections, and never lost an election over the next several decades.
Although he was a Democrat, he was considered to be only moderately liberal by party standards. All through his political career, he lent strong support to social welfare measures and organized labour. In addition, he was also a vocal supporter of the traditional progressive policies.
He was also a keen supporter of a nationwide health insurance policy, for which he introduced a bill in many Congress sessions. In this matter, he was a supporter of his father who had wished the same. When President Bill Clinton proposed one such plan, John supported him wholeheartedly. Clinton also thanked John for his staunch support of the policy.
However, despite his ideology matching that of the party’s for the most part, there were a few instances when John was seen to be a inclined towards right-wing a bit. He was a supporter of the Vietnam War until 1971, and took a moderate stand on abortion laws.
He strongly opposed gun control, and also served as a board member of the 'National Rifle Association.' He was also one of the few Congressmen who worked extensively toward environment conservation laws.
John voted ‘pro-environment’ on 12 out of 12 issues that were raised in the Congress. He also played a key role in the amendment in the functioning of the 'United States Environmental Protection Agency.' He was also a member of the 'Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.'
In 2007, John indicated that he planned to introduce a new tax on carbon usage to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, which was harmful for the environment. The move was, however, criticized by many as it was believed that consumers may not pay extra taxes. The bill could never be converted into a law.
One of John’s core areas of interest was the automotive industry. He was representative of Metro Detroit, the headquarters of several top American automobile companies. He requested auto companies to improve fuel efficiency.
Owing to his popularity in his constituency and the support from the people, he was re-elected 29 times to the House of Representatives. In 1988 and 2006, he was elected unopposed, as he faced no opponent from the Republican Party.
In 1994, when the Republican Party swept the nationwide elections, John still managed to be win by winning 59% of the votes. In 1965, his area was renamed from the 15th district to the 16th district.
John had no problem in winning elections. However, he did face a strong challenge from the Republican Party candidates as the conservatism was increasing in the white suburbs of the state in the 1990s.
John announced in 2014 that he would not be contesting elections for his 31st term and took retirement from politics in 2015, following health issues. His wife, Debbie Dingell, took the charge and defeated the Republican candidate and won.
Family, Personal Life & Death
John Dingell first married Helen Henebry in 1952 and had four children with her. She worked as an air stewardess before marriage. The couple divorced in 1972.
In 1981, John married Deborah Insley, who was 27 years younger than him. She succeeded him in the House of Representatives, taking charge in January 2015.
In the last few years of his life, he suffered from heart issues and prostate cancer. He died on February 7, 2019, at the age of 92.