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. Conyers resigned in 2017.
Conyers was born in Detroit in 1929. Conyers attended Northwestern High School and returned to Detroit to get degrees at Wayne State University following military service in the Korean War. He was elected to Congress in 1965 and immediately became a forceful voice in the Civil Rights Movement, co-sponsoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Conyers was the first African American to chair the powerful House Judiciary Committee and helped spearhead the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. He was also the third-longest-serving House member in U.S. history and the first African American to hold the title of dean, or member with the longest continuous service — a mantle he took on in 2015 after the retirement of Michigan’s John Dingell, Jr.
Conyers and 12 other African American 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 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.”
“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 (NNPA).
“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,” Chavis continued. “May God bless the freedom-fighting memory and legacy of The Honorable John Conyers.” Chavis stated.
Conyers was related to Milwaukee Times founder, the late Nathan Conyers.