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John Dingell's life honored with services in Michigan, Washington D.C.

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Former Congressman John Dingell was remembered in both Michigan and Washington on Tuesday as a witty, approachable and resolute lawmaker who leaves a massive political legacy.

Dingell was the nation’s longest-serving congressman, serving parts of suburban Detroit for nearly six decades. He died last week at age 92. His wife, Debbie Dingell, now holds that seat in the U.S. House.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Dingell was celebrated at a traditional Catholic funeral mass at the Church of the Divine Child in his hometown of Dearborn.

The service was capped by a eulogy from former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden remembered Dingell as one of a few congressional colleagues he genuinely looked up to.

“Why did I like him so much? I think it’s because I knew he knew me. He gave me confidence. He made me believe more in myself than I had,” said Biden.

Biden said Dingell’s persona could be summed up in one word.

“Dignity was how John walked. Dignity was how John talked. Dignity was how John carried himself,” Biden said. “But more than that, dignity was how John treated everyone.”

Biden recalled how Dingell reacted to white supremacists marching on Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017, calling it the best reaction to that event: “John summed it up in one sentence. He said ‘I signed up to fight the Nazis 73 years ago, and I’ll do it again if I have to.’”

Biden also went through a list of Dingell’s legislative accomplishments: shepherding the creation of Medicare, pushing for the Civil Rights Act, and spearheading landmark environmental legislation like the Clean Water Act.

“The list of John’s achievements is literally, not figuratively, like leading the list of America’s proudest moments in the last seven decades,” Biden said.

Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton and Georgia Democratic Congressman John Lewis were also supposed to give eulogies at Dingell’s funeral. However, the flight carrying a congressional delegation to Michigan couldn’t land because of icy weather, so Biden was the sole speaker.

After the Dearborn funeral, Dingell’s body was taken to Washington, D.C., where he was honored with a processional on Capitol Hill late Tuesday afternoon. Another funeral mass at Washington’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church is scheduled for Thursday. After that, Dingell will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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