Former Rep. John Dingell Jr., the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, died Thursday, his wife and successor, Rep. Debbie Dingell, announced in a statement.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr.," according to the statement. "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, age 92, was known to have been in declining health in recent months. He also suffered a heart attack Sept. 17, 2018. On Wednesday, a source close to the family confirmed he had cancer and was receiving hospice care.
Wednesday evening, John Dingell tweeted appreciation for the outpouring of support he'd received.
"The Lovely Deborah is insisting I rest and stay off here," he wrote, "but after long negotiations we've worked out a deal where she'll keep up with Twitter for me as I dictate the messages. I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind words and prayers. You're not done with me just yet."
Debbie Dingell was not present for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening, prompting her to explain her absence.
“Friends and colleagues know me and know I would be in Washington right now unless something was up,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., announced on her Facebook page. “I am home with John and we have entered a new phase.”
The two were married in 1981.
“He is my love and we have been a team for nearly 40 years,” the congresswoman wrote on Facebook. “I will be taking each day as it comes. We thank people for their friendship and support and ask for prayers and privacy during this difficult time.”
Dingell succeeded his father, John Dingell Sr., at age 29, taking office on Dec. 13, 1955, and serving 30 terms in the House of Representatives. He retired January 3, 2015, after a storied career inside the Capitol – particularly on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he served two stints as chairman.
Dingell was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving from 1944-1946, achieving the rank of second lieutenant. He did not deploy overseas to a theater of war during World War II.
HarperCollins recently published Dingell’s memoir, titled: “The Dean: The Best Seat in the House.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who Dingell swore in as the first woman House Speaker in 2007, called him “a beloved pillar of the Congress and one of the greatest legislators in American history.”
“John Dingell leaves a towering legacy of unshakable strength, boundless energy and transformative leadership,” Pelosi, D-Calif., stated. “His memory will stand as an inspiration to all who worked with him or had the pleasure of knowing him. His leadership will endure in the lives of the millions of American families he touched.”
Former President Bill Clinton tweeted about Dingell Thursday night.
"There are few major legislative triumphs since 1955 that he didn’t have a key hand in passing," Clinton wrote. "Hillary & I are grateful to have worked with him & called him our friend."
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., remembered Dingell in a statement.
"Congressman John Dingell—the Dean of the House and my dear friend—was not merely a witness to history. He was a maker of it," she said in the statement. "I know that all of us in Michigan are sending her and their family and many friends our love and support at this time.”
In a Twitter thread, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer remembered him. She wrote, "Today the great State of Michigan said farewell to one of our greatest leaders. John Dingell will forever be remembered as ‘The Dean’ of Congress not simply for the length of his service, but for his unparalleled record of legislative accomplishments."
"The Congressman’s grit, humility and humor taught us all that we can disagree without being disagreeable, while still finding common ground and working together to get things done" she added.
Even in retirement, Dingell was widely appreciated for his colorful humor, particularly on Twitter. He was known to rib Republicans.
While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was battling cancer, Dingell wrote on Twitter that he looked forward to catching up with him soon.
"My friend @SenJohnMcCain is a dogged ole S.O.B.," he wrote. "Sharp as hell and tougher than a $2 steak."
McCain died in August 2018 at the age of 81.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama presented Dingell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a Facebook post, he asked who wore it best and shared photos of Obama placing the medal on him and and actress Meryl Streep.
Obama shared a number of Dingell's accomplishments in a statement, including his work on Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and helping to rescue Detroit's auto industry during Obama's tenure in office.
Whitmer ended her Twitter thread calling for Dingell's life to be an example for the country.
"In this divisive time, may we all draw wisdom and inspiration from the truly remarkable life of Congressman John Dingell, and may we all continue to learn from his example of selfless public service as we work to build a better future for our state," she wrote.