DEARBORN, Mich. — Mourners from across metro Detroit and the political spectrum were gathered in Dearborn Tuesday to pay their respects to former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress.
The funeral, originally expected to start at 11 a.m., was delayed 30 minutes because of weather.
Dingell, known as “Big John” or “the Truck” because of his imposing stature, was being eulogized at Dearborn’s Church of the Divine Child by a bi-partisan group of politicians. They included former Vice President Joe Biden and civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, both Democrats, and his long-time friend, Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of Kalamazoo.
After the service, Dingell’s casket, along with his wife, U.S. Rep, Debbie Dingell, were being flown to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington by military transport. A motorcade was then expected to take them past the U.S. Capitol.
As part of that motorcade, members of the House and Senate were expected to come outside to watch the motorcade and pay their respects.
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A bipartisan group of mourners was expected to gather Thursday for a second service in Washington, where former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio and U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, will be the speakers at a funeral mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church.
Dingell, who was a veteran, is expected to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery though there were no immediate details about that ceremony.
It was fitting that Dingell, who died Thursday at the age of 92 after a battle with cancer, had members of both political parties pay tribute to his nearly 60 years in Congress. He helped craft and pass some of the most consequential measures during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, the Endangered Species Act and the Affordable Care Act.
His colleague, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Lansing Democrat, summed up Dingell’s tenure as she made her way into the Dearborn church Tuesday morning.
“He fought hard but was able to compromise. In order to work across the aisle, you have to be able trust the other person. People trusted his word,” she said.
Dingell retired from the House in 2015 and his wife replaced him after winning his seat in a 2014 election.
Throughout his career, he remained an advocate of Michigan manufacturing, its signature auto industry and its natural resources.
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Born on July 8, 1926, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Dingell spent much of his formative years in Washington, D.C. His father, John Dingell Sr., who had ties to organized labor, moved the family back to Detroit and won election to a newly created congressional district in 1933.
After the war, Dingell entered private practice in Detroit, before joining the staff of U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore Levin and then becoming an assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County. After his father died in 1955, Dingell was elected in a special election to replace him. He was 29.
His funeral service was filled with people who had worked with him over the years, from constituents of his western Wayne County district to politicians he had served with, including former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, and his brother former U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard and Stabenow. Ninety members of Congress were expected to attend the funeral.
Catherine Daligga of Ypsilanti, a member of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party, came to the funeral despite a steady, icy rain that snarled traffic.
“He was gracious and approachable,” she said.
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Contributing: Todd Spangler, David Jesse and Matt Dolan, The Detroit Free Press
Follow Kathleen Gray on Twitter @michpoligal.
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