Dingell Becomes Longest-Serving House Member

Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House back when Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., was sworn in for his first House term by Speaker Sam Rayburn -- under a flag adorned with 48 stars.

Today, more than 53 years since he took over the seat after the death of his father, Dingell becomes the longest-serving House member in the nation's history.

And if day 19,420 as a House member is like those that preceded it, it will be a long day at the office for "Big John."

"Same as any other day -- I'm going to work in the same office, I'm going to go to the [House] floor, do the same things in committee, and do the same things in terms of work," Dingell told ABCNews.com in an interview. "It's a great job. I love it, and I'm grateful every day to the good Lord for giving me another day."

At 82, despite being recently stripped of the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship he first held in 1981, Dingell is still going strong. Under President Obama, Dingell is looking forward to seeing a bill that he has filed in Congress after Congress -- just like his father did before him -- signed into law: universal health coverage.

It's that tenacity -- and the fact that he's still coming to work every day, in crutches or a wheelchair, due to a recent knee replacement -- that friends and colleagues say mark his true legacy.

"He's tough, he's principled, and he's committed to the United States House of Representatives," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who has served alongside Dingell on the Energy and Commerce Committee for 33 years. "And he can't walk away, because his father would never walk away. That still animates him -- his father's philosophy.

"He's a living link to the principles of fairness and protecting the public interest, that inspired the New Deal," Markey said.

Fred Malek, a longtime Republican who's known Dingell since 1973, said Dingell has shown his true "perseverance and dedication" by not giving up under difficult circumstances.

He never lost "a step when the Republican revolution in 1994 resulted in his losing his powerful position as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was apparent more recently when he again found his position changing," Malek said. "John Dingell's commitment to excellence and devotion to his country is an inspiration, and we could not have a better man to honor as the longest-serving member of Congress in our history."

Pelosi to Honor Dingell, Despite Differences

Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- whose father also served alongside Dingell -- organized a reception in the Capitol to honor his achievement. Speakers included former President Bill Clinton.

"Every chapter of John Dingell's life has been lived in service to his country," Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "To work alongside John Dingell is to be inspired by the history of our institution and humbled by the seriousness of our work."

By the numbers, Dingell's service is staggering. As of Tuesday, according to the House historian's office, he had cast 24,377 roll-call votes. Between his father's service and his own, a Dingell has represented Michigan in Congress since Herbert Hoover was president.

Dingell has won 28 general elections. He's served under 11 of the nation's 44 presidents -- including Obama, who was born six years after Dingell entered the House. His service to the House of Representatives actually dates to 1938, when he first worked as a House page.

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