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‘The Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus: Congressman John Conyers passes at 90

By Stacy M.Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent | Last updated: Nov 1, 2019 - 9:51:37 AM

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WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Former U.S. Congressman John Conyers, whose 15-year fight to pass legislation that would make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, has died. He was 90.

The longtime Michigan Democrat represented what is now the state’s 13th Congressional District (which includes parts of western Detroit) for more than 50 years. Rep. Conyers resigned in 2017.

Rep. Conyers was born in Detroit in 1929. He was elected to Congress in 1965 and immediately became a forceful voice in the Civil Rights Movement, cosponsoring the Voting Rights Act of that same year.

Rep. Conyers was the first Black American to chair the powerful House Judiciary Committee and helped spearhead the 1994 Violence against Women Act.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest-serving member of Congress and new dean of the House in the 114th Congress had a portrait unveiled in his honor in January 2015. His family attended the ceremony.

(L-R): Minister Louis Farrakhan greets Mr. Conyers

Rep. Conyers and 12 other Black members of the House of Representatives founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.

“We always knew where he stood on issues of equality and civil rights in the fight for the people,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who now represents Rep. Conyers’ district, tweeted.

“Sad to hear of the passing of former Congressman John Conyers,” the Rev. Al Sharpton stated. “He worked with us on many civil rights cases as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and helped lead the fight for the Martin Luther King [Jr.] Holiday.”

“Most of us from Michigan loved our congressman. He was idolized and was absolutely an icon. Not only was he an icon of the civil rights movement but we looked to him for leadership. This is a massive loss. All of us in business, the clergy, the community, respected, admired and aspired to be like John Conyers,” said Hiram Jackson, president and CEO of Real Times Media.

“Congressman John Conyers decades ago held the first U.S. Congressional Hearings on Racially-Motivated Police Brutality; led the House Judiciary Hearings on Criminal Justice and Prison Reform in America; was co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC); and was a leading congressional advocate for the freedom of Angela Davis, the Wilmington Ten, and all political prisoners in the United States,” remarked Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

“Conyers was a constitutional scholar and political visionary whose longstanding vision for freedom, justice and equality was unparalleled in the Congress of the United States,” Dr. Chavis continued. “May God bless the freedom-fighting memory and legacy of The Honorable John Conyers.”

(L-R): Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings address Millions More Movement in Washington, D.C. in 2005 commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.

Former U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Min. Louis Farrakhan and basketball great Isiah Thomas share a moment following homegoing service for the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, on August 31, 2018.

(L-R): Nation of Islam official Claudette M. Muhammad, Rep. Conyers and Student Minister Troy Muhammad of Mosque No. 1 in Detroit.