Rep. John Lewis on the Passing of Rep. John Conyers, Former Dean of the House
Rep. John Conyers, one of the longest serving members of Congress and former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was a champion of civil and human rights. He was first elected to Congress in 1964, during the height of the African American struggle for voting rights in this country. He made regular trips to the frontlines in the Deep South to demonstrate that visible support for the civil rights struggle reached all the way to the halls of Congress. His visits inspired us and gave us hope.
After Rosa Parks decided to leave Alabama, due to rejection and harassment brought on by her leadership in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was very difficult for her to find a job. I always admired the fact that Rep. Conyers provided a way for her when she had nowhere else to turn. He took her in, employed her, and she worked on his staff for 23 years. She spent the later years of her life living in his district in Detroit.
Rep. John Conyers was a powerful voice for justice on the House Judiciary Committee, as chairman and as a member. He used his authority to lead investigations into irregularities in voting, to document the Tulsa riots, to raise questions about the legitimacy of war, to advocate for universal healthcare, and to defend citizens against the attack on their civil liberties, even when the rest of the House did not pursue oversight. He was a co-sponsor of the Voting RIghts Act of 1965 and helped shepherd its reauthorization in subsequent years. He was an innovator who helped found the Congressional Black Caucus, passed a resolution declaring jazz a national treasure, was an original member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and worked closely with Coretta Scott King and others to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.
Rep. John Conyers was one of a kind. He made a lasting contribution to the struggle for equal justice in our country, and he will be deeply missed.