Longest-serving US congressman John Dingell dies aged 92


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John Dingell. Photo: February 2014Image copyright
Reuters

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John Dingell served during the terms of 11 US presidents

John Dingell, the longest serving congressman in US history, has died aged 92.

“He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend,” the office of his wife Debbie Dingell said.

The Michigan Democrat was a driving force behind many key liberal laws, notably health programmes.

He was first elected in 1955, serving in the House of Representatives for the next 59 years. He retired in 2015.

After leaving Congress, he closely followed all the twists and turns of US politics, often deploying Twitter to express his position on major issues.

His last post was the day before his death, in which he wrote: “You’re not done with me just yet.”

Skip Twitter post by @JohnDingell

The Lovely Deborah is insisting I rest and stay off here, but after long negotiations we’ve worked out a deal where she’ll keep up with Twitter for me as I dictate the messages. I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind words and prayers. You’re not done with me just yet.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) February 6, 2019

End of Twitter post by @JohnDingell

Mr Dingell died peacefully on Thursday in his home in Dearborn, Michigan.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan Congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress,” Debbie Dingell’s office said in a statement.

It said that Mr Dingell’s wife, who was elected to the House in 2015 to succeed him, was at his side.

“He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth,” the statement added.

Mrs Dingell did not attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, deciding to stay with her husband as his health deteriorated.

‘I don’t want people to be sorry for me’

Mr Dingell was 29 when he won a special election for his father’s seat after the latter’s sudden death in 1955.

Former President Barack Obama has described him as one of the most influential legislators of all time.

Mr Dingell served through the terms of 11 US presidents.

Explaining his decision to retire in 2015, he said back then: “I don’t want people to be sorry for me. I don’t want to be going out feet-first and I don’t want to do less than an adequate job.”

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AFP/Getty Images

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In 2014, John Dingell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama

He had said his single most important vote in Congress was for the sweeping 1964 Civil Rights Act, which among other provisions forbade discrimination in employment based on race and sex. The vote almost cost him the next election.

He also played a key role in the creation of Medicare, the government-sponsored health programme for the elderly and disabled and was an early supporter of universal healthcare legislation, including President Obama’s 2010 healthcare law.

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Mr Dingell’s first brush with social media fame began with a 2014 viral tweet involving the Kardashians and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mistake.

According to the Washington Post, the now-deleted EPA tweet had included a link to a Kim Kardashian mobile app, to which Mr Dingell replied: “You OK, @EPAwater?”

Skip Twitter post 2 by @JohnDingell

I’m the last original author of the Clean Water Act, but I have no idea who/what a Kardashian is and I rarely play games. You OK, @EPAwater?

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) July 22, 2014

End of Twitter post 2 by @JohnDingell

The next day, Mr Dingell informed Twitter that he had been educated as to what a Kardashian is, but was “only left with more questions”.

In between his sports and pop culture tweets full of dry humour, Mr Dingell also offered sharp, succinct criticisms of the president and his administration.

Skip Twitter post 3 by @JohnDingell

I still can’t believe they let this no-talent reality TV star into the oval office. Great to see my friend Kim is doing well though. https://t.co/Zkdkz8qmw0

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) May 31, 2018

End of Twitter post 3 by @JohnDingell

Skip Twitter post 4 by @JohnDingell

I’ll take “Colluders” for $1000, Alex. https://t.co/ashzhYvhOw

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) March 29, 2018

End of Twitter post 4 by @JohnDingell

Following news of Mr Dingell’s death, fans on Twitter have mourned the loss of one of the social media platform’s best users.