Rep. John Dingell, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Bill Clinton, basks in the attention at a reception. He is a longtime backer of the auto industry.
Lawrence Jackson / AP Enlarge
WASHINGTON - Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.), the iron-fisted former committee chairman and advocate for Detroit's automakers, was honored yesterday by former President Bill Clinton and congressional leaders on the eve of becoming the longest-serving U.S. House member in history.
Mr. Dingell, who was 29 when he succeeded his late father in Congress in 1955, will begin his 19,420th day in Congress today, surpassing the late Rep. Jamie Whitten (D., Miss.), who served more than 53 years.
"We are not here for the length of his service. We are here for the quality of his service," Mr. Clinton said during a reception attended by dozens of lawmakers, former House Speaker Tom Foley (D., Wash.), and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
"To work alongside John Dingell is to be inspired by the history of our institution and humbled by the seriousness of our work," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
Mr. Dingell, 82, who was joined by his wife, Debbie, and his adult children, Christopher and Jennifer, thanked his family, constituents, and colleagues who have supported him over five decades in Congress. He said the nation now faces some of its greatest challenges since Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, but he remained optimistic.
Mr. Dingell is the author of major legislation on clean air and water and on the protection of endangered species and has pushed for universal health care coverage and policies to help Detroit's automakers.
Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), who has served with Mr. Dingell since the late 1970s, said the lawmaker has remained loyal to his constituents.