John Dingell, the Democratic congressman who represented Michigan for 59 years until he retired in 2015 as the longest-serving member of Congress in history, has died, his wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, confirmed. He was 92.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress,” said the statement from Debbie Dingell’s office. “Congressman Dingell died peacefully today at his home in Dearborn, surrounded by his wife Deborah. He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this Earth.”
Dingell, who had a heart attack in September, had entered hospice care earlier this week, a source close to the family confirmed to CBS News. The cause of death has not yet been released.
On Wednesday, Dingell’s wife Rep. Debbie Dingell said in a statement that she would spending time at home with her husband as he “entered a new phase.”
“He is my love and we have been a team for nearly 40 years,” said Dingell. She added, “We thank people for their friendship and support and ask for prayers and privacy during this difficult time.”
Dingell announced in 2014 he would retire from the House after representing Michigan’s 12th District for nearly 60 years, surpassing Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia as the longest-serving member.
The former congressman was first elected to the House in 1955, a seat formerly held by his father, John Dingell, Sr. But it wasn’t his first time on the House floor — as a teen, the Democrat had served as a congressional page. Following his retirement in 2015, the seat managed to stay within the family once again as his wife Debbie ran and won the election for his vacant seat.
From 1981 until 2009, Dingell was the top-ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was one of the original authors of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and helped write the Endangered Species Act in 1973. As the representative of Dearborn, once home to the largest Ford factory in the world, Dingell was known as a fierce defender of the auto industry.
The historian for the House of Representatives noted that Dingell served with 2,427 members of the House, or 22 percent of the House’s total membership, 11 presidents, and 11 speakers of the House.
Later in life, he became a Twitter celebrity, with BuzzFeed News calling him the “best person on Twitter” in 2014. On Thursday, after reports that he had entered hospice care, he tweeted that his wife would be taking over his feed after “long negotiations” and added “you’re not done with me yet.”
Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.