In Tribute of The Honorable John D. Dingell Jr.

The Longest Serving Member of The U.S. House of Representatives

To share your memories, please email adiamond@usafmc.org


The Honorable Donald W. Reigle, Jr. (MI, 1966-1976; 1976-1994)

John Dingell was a brilliant legislative giant - ranking alongside Ted Kennedy. I served with John for 28 years. He was the first - to welcome me into the Democratic party. He taught us all - how to be strong, fair and bi/partisan committee chairmen. He fought every day for working people - and economic justice. No House member leaves a bigger footprint than John. He deserves our gratitude and tributes. 

The Honorable Charlie Melancon (D-LA, 2005-2011)

As a freshman member of Congress in 2005, and consequently through my three terms of service,  I was confronted with several natural disasters and one man made one. With Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and the BP Oil Spill, I was constantly in Disaster Recovery Mode. John Dingell and his staff were a constant support team. For that, I will always be appreciative.

Mr. Dingell was the consummate statesman, working with any member of Congress for the public good. Knowledgeable, witty, generous in sharing his knowledge were all attributes of this gentleman. The people of Michigan, as well as the citizens of this country have lost a great and humble leader. 

May John Rest In Peace!

The Honorable Dave Curson (D-MI, 2012-2013)

I worked as a UAW representative for 40 years and John Dingell always had the working man’s back. In every crisis John would not only give advice, he'd join the battle. I was elected to the 112th Congress to fill a vacancy in Michigan’s 11th District. I’d never sought or held public office. The Dean, my friend of many years, took me under his wing and constantly reminded me how important our work is; how even though I would serve for just a short time that my vote was as important and powerful as his. I sat with John nearly every day in session and observed the respect he received from both sides of the aisle. At the beggining  of session or caucus meeting John would lean over to me and say, “David, remember, be a gentleman”. If you liked it or not, you always heard the truth from Congressman Dingell. Wether he agreed or not, he always heard your side of the story. Wether he likes you or didn’t like you he treated you fairly with respect. Above all, John Dingell was always a gentleman. He will be missed!

The Honorable Lois Capps (D-CA, 1998-2017)

  When I came to the US Congress following a special election in 1998 I left a long career as a public health nurse.  Shortly after arriving in the Capitol I heard my new colleague Diana DeGette speaking on the Floor about “The Patient’s Bill of Rights.”  I naively asked her how I could get involved with that topic and she suggested trying to get appointed to the House Committee on Commerce and Energy and the subcommittee on Health.  That meant getting to know Congressman John Dingell.  Fortunately for me I discovered that he was “partial to  nurses” (his words) and he greatly influenced my Congressional Career!  

As I read  Congressman Dingell’s  “Last Words for America” in the Washington Post I was struck by the truth that our friend and colleague left us very much the way he lived; strong of spirit and commitment and eloquently articulate on behalf of his constant belief in the institutions of democracy.  He served his constituents and our country in remarkable ways.  It was an honor and a privilege for me to serve under his leadership. 

The Honorable Tim Wirth (D-CO, 1987–1993)

As a Freshman member of Congress in 1975, I had the privilege of sitting next to John Dingell when he assumed the chairmanship of  his first Commerce Committee subcommittee. What an education that was, to watch him legislate on those early energy regulatory issues, while at the same time work with John Moss toward eventually taking over the full Committee.  John had known my oldest sister, and took me under his wing early on, giving me full shot at critical co-sponsorships and committee questioning.  

When Henry Waxman staged his campaign for the Chair of the Health subcommittee, it became clear  that total revolution was taking place on the sprawling Committee, and Chairman Dingell quickly made allies of the rambunctious young members of the Class of ‘74, of which there were nine on the Committee. By the election of 1980, he had totally captured the Committee, and reorganized it into five major subcommittees, each  of which was chaired by one of his young allies (Ottinger, Waxman, Wirth, Florio and Sharp).   His jurisdictional base was completed, and he used the enormous jurisdiction of the Committee  for more than forty years to advance his vision of a progressive America. We were fortunate to  have had him in such a key position,  holding the line against many of the incursions of the Reagan era, while advancing a broad view of the Public Trust. 

Can any of us ever forget the Chaiman coming into a hearing, sitting quietly at the end  of the dias, and then cheering a supportive witness or flaying  an opponent   Fear often permeated the witness table, but it was almost always diluted by the Chairman’s good humor, home spun aphorisms, or quotes from “as my old dad used to say”. 

We warred over Committee budgets, and every two years it took all five of us together to try to bell the Chairman.   We usually lost as he out- maneuvered us time and again.  We almost always agreed on the basic issues, and if we left him alone on autos and guns, he left us alone or was fully supportive of our subcommittee agendas. 

This was a fine, progressive forty years, a tribute to a fine legislator, leader and visionary. John Dingell loved the Committee, the Congress and the country, and represented the best instincts of all.  It was a challenge, a pleasure, a learning time, a growing time, breeding a set of relationships none of us will ever forget.   Thank you, Mr. Chairman!

The Honorable Phil Gingrey (R-GA, 2003-2015)

It was an honor to serve in Congress with this great public servant. He never failed to speak to this Conservative Republican on the House Floor. What a great man! I will miss him deeply.

The Honorable Lindsay Thomas (D-GA, 1983-1993)

I was sworn in Jan 3rd of 1983. Perhaps it was our mutual love of hunting and your wildlife heritage that brought us together.

In my first term I went on a weekend excursion and hunting trip down in Florida with Tony Cohello and Dic Gehardt and Chairman Dingel.

It was a while before I realize just what important people I was with. I was brand new to the Political world and was so appreciative of being in eluded with that group. 

Chairman Dingel and I were in the founding group that started the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus which celebrates its 30 anniversary this year.

Today I am proud of the Kevlar stock that he gave me to use on my favorite hunting rifle and I have it with me often in the woods along with the memory of my friend who took time to mentor a rank freshman from the deep South.

On one occasion I had to make a vote that was not to the chairman’s liking. When I saw him in the cloak room I was careful to explain to him my situation.

The Chairman looked down with a knowing smile and said, “I am an old Pol Lindsay Son, but I have a long memory”, I took his comment with the

greatest respect and learned in the 10 years that I served with him that he was deserving of the highest regard I and his Colleagues could afford him.

I consider myself very fortunate to known this great American Patriot.

The Honorable Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH, 1977-1993)

Congressman John Dingell was a powerhouse throughout my sixteen years in the U.S. Congress. 

Being from Cleveland, of course, I respected his concern for the American Auto Industry, and worked with him on several pieces of legislation. There was an event where he was being honored on the Hill, and the sponsors asked if Barbara Boxer, Marcy Kaptur, and I would sing a song for him.  We had sung songs that ultimately opened the gym to female Members. So to the tune of Mack the Knife, my solo line was "Big John Dingell makes me tingle."  He got such a kick out of it that the "gruff" Chairman would ask me to sing the song again.  Later, when I was President of ADC, a civil rights national organization, we honored John for his years of outstanding public service. Congressman John Dingell had a fine philosophy, and he never wavered. His legacy lives on!  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  

The Honorable Chet Edwards (D-TX, 1991-2011)

John Dingell will forever be known as a giant in the history of American democracy--not just for the length of his public service but for the breadth and depth of his accomplishments.  His dedicated work literally touched the lives of every American family over the past half century, and his achievements will continue to make a positive difference in our world for generations to come.  The wit and wisdom of Chairman Dingell were legendary—and only John could have helped me effectively navigate a district issue  in the 1990’s that pitted the Texas Farm Bureau vs the Sierra Club.  

 While John could be tough as nails when needed, he was a warm and caring friend to countless people, regardless of party affiliation, all of whom respected his never-ending commitment to the dignity of everyday working people.  Above all, John Dingell respected the institutions of our democracy and spent his life making them work better.  

 On a personal note, it was not just John’s historic accomplishments that I admired so much--it was his impeccable integrity and his personal friendship that I will always cherish.   John had a  way of mentoring generations of Members of Congress, and all of us blessed to have known him benefitted from his wit and wisdom.  To my friend and faithful public servant, I believe a special place in heaven is reserved for those who spent a lifetime loving their neighbors as themselves. God speed, my friend.

The Honorable Michael McNulty (D-NY, 1989-2009)

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in the House of Representatives for 20 years with my friend John Dingell.  John’s historic legislative achievements will continue to benefit the people of the United States for generations to come.

The Honorable Dennis Eckart (D-OH, 1981-1993)

If any one named individual could ever be cited as the essential personality of the U.S. House of Representatives it would be John Dingell.

Truly a ‘Man of The House’, I served with “Big John” on the Energy and Commerce Committee for about a dozen years in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Although 25 years his junior we both came from similar ethnic stock and states in the industrial Great Lakes Midwest. 

He taught us many things but amongst them these stood out:

·        Process was as important as policy,

·        Knowing how to count was critical,

·        Never let  perfect become the enemy of good.

Sometimes these lessons came together as in a single occurrence moments after he somewhat unexpectedly lost a close committee vote he gaveled the Committee to adjournment. When objections were shouted he  announced as only he could from his Chair,

“You may have the votes, but I have the gavel”, and the committee stood adjourned.

Within days, a compromise was reached and legislation moved forward.

John intuitively also knew that the quality of the staff is what separated mediocre Members from good and great Members. His staff was always first rate, clearly directed and supported and empowered to do their job.

John believed in equality. Equality in the branches of our government, equality of the application of  our laws. And in no place was it more evident than his well-known approach Congressional Oversight…a duty he took most solemnly. I sat with John on Oversight and watched as John was an equal opportunity ‘quetioner’ especially of those who became too comfortable on the public tab, thought the application of the law was below them, or were indifferent to ‘the facts’.

He was more than a colleague…John was a mentor…and a friend.

Our families traveled together back when we took the time to know our colleagues and better understand their needs and issues.

John loved the outdoors and his hunting trips and I was lucky to accompany him on numerous occasions.

I recall vividly one  hunting trip together how he reminisced around the campfire at days’ end about the beauty of the sunset.

He opined that “we don’t know how many of these (gesturing towards the setting orb)  we will get in our lives…have to remember and enjoy every one.” I never forgot that.

In a life filled many great accomplishments as his sunrises and sunsets, John Dingell may have seen his last…but the afterglow of his life will be remembered and  linger long after his sun has gone down.

Rest in Peace my friend…I will remember you with every sunset I witness.

The Honorable Harold Ford Sr. (D-TN, 1975-1997)

Such a beautiful and smart man and I feel honored to have served 22 years with him in the congress of the United States. My prayers are with his family.

The Honorable Martin Frost (D-TX, 1979-2005)

When I was chair of the DCCC, John Dingell hosted an annual fundraiser for us at a gun club in Maryland. He decided that as chair I needed to learn how to shoot clay pigeons so he took me out to the club in advance and patiently showed me how it was done. He was such a good teacher than when the event was held I didn’t embarrass myself. I didn’t win but I actually hit some clays. He was indeed a man for all seasons.