Former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the longest-serving African American House member in congressional history, died at age 90.
Conyers, a veteran of the Korean War and participant in the Civil Rights movement, was co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and chaired the House Oversight Committee from 1989 to 1995. He also introduced the bill declaring a national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
He was the first African American to serve as Dean of the House, or longest continually-serving current member. Conyers was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation into President Richard Nixon, and was one of his biggest enemies.
During his tenure, he also regularly introduced bills to establish a single-payer health care system and to perform a study on reparations for the descendants of slaves.
Conyers resigned from his Detroit-area seat in 2017 after serving for over 50 years amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment from young female staffers, which he denied.
“For Detroiters, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish by bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in critical grants and federal funding to Southeast Michigan to revitalize our great city, attract rich talent, and return us to prosperity,” Conyers said in a statement read by a colleague on the House floor in December 2017.
The allegations began with the revelation in November that he settled a complaint with a former aide, Marion Brown, in 2015 over allegations that she was fired for turning him down after he sexually propositioned her. Conyers paid her about $27,000 through his congressional office budget, sparking a furor about the use of taxpayer money for harassment settlements.
Conyers’s grandnephew Ian lost the 2018 Democratic primary to now-Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
“Our Congressman forever, John Conyers, Jr.,” Tlaib said in a tweet Sunday. “He never once wavered in fighting for jobs, justice and peace. We always knew where he stood on issues of equality and civil rights in the fight for the people. Thank you Congressman Conyers for fighting for us for over 50 years.”