DETROIT --- John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, died Thursday at the age of 92. Dingell recently entered hospice care after a cancer diagnosis.
Rep. Deborah Dingell (D-Mich.), his successor in Congress and his wife, confirmed his death to the Detroit News tonight.
First elected in 1955, John Dingell became revered on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill for his legislative prowess while shaping some of the most consequential bills in the last century.
After a historic tenure that included landmark votes on civil rights, authorizing wars, and Medicare, Dingell retired in 2014 in frustration over the entrenched partisanship that came to define Congress in his final years.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” Dingell told The Detroit News when he announced his retirement. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness.”
He used his final days on Capitol Hill to warn future generations about the growing partisanship.
"Like all of you, I'm troubled about the times in which we find ourselves. We have too much ill-will, too much hatred, too much bitterness, too much anger," Dingell said at an event marking his record as the longest-serving member of Congress in 2013.
"Congress means 'a coming together,' where people come together to work for great causes in which they all have an important interest. … We have, I think, unfortunately, because of the pressure of the times, forgotten this."
Dingell wielded immense power over the course of his time in the House, despite never serving in the elected Democratic leadership. He was a longtime champion of the auto industry.
His influence stemmed from his tenure as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981 to 1995 and again from 2007 to 2009, a position he used to defend the auto industry based near his suburban Detroit district. That helped earn him the nickname of "The Truck."
Dingell had personal ties to auto industry, too: his wife, Debbie, served as vice chairman of the General Motors Foundation until 2009. Dingell's record tenure as the longest-serving member of Congress began upon his first election to Congress more than six decades ago. But his roots on Capitol Hill started to take form in his childhood. He often visited the Capitol with his father, Rep. John Dingell Sr. (D-Mich.), and served as a House page when he was 12 years old.
Dingell's father served in the House for 22 years until he died in office in 1955. Dingell, at the time only 29, ran in the special election to replace his father and continue the family dynasty. With Debbie Dingell's election in 2014, the Detroit-based district has now been represented by the family since 1933, the opening year of the Roosevelt administration.
But Dingell's ties to the auto industry became a liability later in his career when fellow Democrats agitated for new climate and environmental regulations. In November 2008, Dingell faced a challenge from then-Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for the Energy and Commerce Committee gavel, who was viewed as a more aggressive proponent of new climate policies. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) officially remained neutral in the race, but many of her allies notably backed her fellow Californian's move against Dingell.
He narrowly lost that Chairmanship to Waxman, 137 to 122, in a secret ballot vote.
But Dingell still played a role in the health care overhaul Democrats passed in 2010. He helped author the Patient's Bill of Rights provisions in the Affordable Care Act, which prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions and enacting lifetime and annual limits on coverage.
Universal health care had long been one of his signature issues. Dingell had kept up his father's tradition of introducing legislation in every new session of Congress for a national health care system.