DETROIT (AP) – Former Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving black member of Congress and founder of the Black Caucus, has died. The Detroit Democrat was 90.
Detroit police say the former congressman died at his home on Sunday. Police spokesman Cpl. Dan Donakowski says Conyers died of what appears to be natural causes.
Conyers’ resolutely liberal stance on civil rights and civil liberties made him a political institution. He also fought for 15 years to get the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday designated a national holiday.
A jazz aficionado from an early age, Conyers became one of only six black House members when he narrowly won his first election in 1964.
But his legacy was smeared in 2017 following allegations that he sexually harassed female staffers. He denied the allegations but eventually stepped down, citing health reasons, saying his legacy couldn’t be diminished.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says there would be no federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. without the work of John Conyers.
Conyers, the longest-serving black member of Congress, died Sunday at his Detroit home, two years after leaving the U.S. House.
Jackson, the Chicago-based civil rights leader, tells The Associated Press that even some of Conyers’ allies doubted that he could persuade Congress to create a public holiday for King. Jackson says Conyers’ death and the recent death of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore have been “real painful.”
Jackson says “it’s like a hole in the sky.”
Conyers was in Congress for nearly 53 years.
Several Michigan lawmakers have released statements expressing their condolences for Conyers’ passing.
Senator Debbie Stabenow said, “From serving in our armed forces, to leading the fight for civil rights and representing Detroit in congress for more than 50 years. John was consistently at the forefront of the critical issues impacting families.”
Senator Gary Peters said, “Congressman Conyers dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights. While serving in congress with him I saw firsthand his dedication and passion for his beloved city of Detroit and the congressional district he represented.”