(Bobit) — Former U.S. Rep. John David Dingell Jr., the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, died Thursday at the age of 92. Dingell, a Democrat and former Wayne County prosecutor, was elected to represent Michigan’s 12th District in 1955 following the death of his father, who had won the then-newly created seat in 1933. He would spend nearly 60 years in the House, chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee and playing key roles in drafting and passing such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, the Endangered Species Act, Medicare, and, 45 years later, the Affordable Care Act.
Dingell also advocated for the federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler and built a legacy of standing up for Michigan’s manufacturing segment, often leading to charges he favored business over the environment. He defended his positions in a 2014 interview with Politico.
“If you look, you’ll find that what I did was make these laws tolerant for industry,” Dingell said. “And I would tell the industry folks, ‘You’ve got to go along. I will get you a bill that you will hate, but it will be a bill that you can live with.’”
Tributes poured in overnight from within and outside the nation’s capital, the Great Lakes region, and a reeling industry. They described a man who wielded estimable power but was best known for his gentlemanly demeanor, quick wit, and devotion to wife Debbie, who has held his Congressional seat since he stepped down in 2015.
In a statement, Ford Motor Co.’s executive chairman, Bill Ford, said Dingell could be relied upon to find common ground on any issue.
“He constantly reminded us as a company and as an industry that we either work together or we fail separately,” Ford wrote. “His passing is a reminder that we need more leaders who are willing to find compromise and bring people together for the greater good.”
In a tweet late Thursday night, Dingell was remembered fondly by former President Barack Obama, who awarded Dingell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Obama referenced legendary baseball player and manager Frank Robinson, who also died Thursday, at age 83, in the post.
“We lost two great Americans today — Frank Robinson and John Dingell — citizens who inspired me and so many others by leading on the civil rights issues of our time, opening doors to others, and leaving it all on the field.”