Longtime Rep. John Dingell was remembered Thursday as “one of the greats” as lawmakers and former colleagues hailed his record-breaking service in the House.
The 92-year-old Dingell who died last week, served 59 years in Congress, longer than anyone else in U.S. history. The Michigan Democrat was the longtime chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Many of the laws forged over the past 60 years reflect Dingell’s influence, former House Speaker John Boehner and other speakers said, and touch on everything from health care to the environment, civil rights and the auto industry, which Dingell fiercely defended throughout his tenure.
“John Dingell was one of the greats, the gentleman from Michigan, the dean of the House, the chairman,” said Boehner, R-Ohio.
Rep. Fred Upton, who followed Dingell as Energy and Commerce chairman, called Dingell “Mr. Michigan,” and said Dingell’s love of his home state was unmatched. Upton, a Michigan Republican, recalled Dingell’s famous remark about the committee: “If it moves, it’s energy. If it doesn’t it’s commerce. We had the world.”
Former President Bill Clinton said the funeral at Holy Trinity Catholic Church marked one of the few times anyone in attendance could be in the same room with Dingell and get the last word.
While Dingell served for nearly six decades, it was what he did while in Congress that matters more, Clinton said.
“John Dingell was about the best do-er in the history of American public life,” Clinton said, citing Dingell’s role in a host of landmark laws, including the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Endangered Species Act, Clear Air Act and many others.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a close friend, called the 6-foot-3 Dingell larger than life and said he was “imposing” and even intimidating.
“He was our very own Big John,” Hoyer said, noting that while “sometimes acerbic,” Dingell was “as tender as he was tenacious and he became a dear friend.”
About 800 people attended a service Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, where Dingell lived.