John Conyers Jr., former dean of the House, has died

Former Judiciary chairman resigned his seat after a 2017 sexual harassment scandal

Former Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., died Sunday at age 90. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., died Sunday at age 90. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 27, 2019 at 5:12pm

Former House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., who served more than five decades in Congress, died Sunday at age 90, a spokesperson confirmed.

The Democrat from Michigan had been the longest serving African American lawmaker in congressional history, but resigned in 2017 amid a sexual harassment scandal after what was seen as an illustrious career.

Conyers, who was the dean of the House, resigned after Buzzfeed News and other outlets reported that he had paid a former staffer roughly $27,000 in a sexual harassment settlement drawn from Conyers’ congressional office budget and more allegations continued to surface.

According to sworn affidavits, Conyers was accused of using congressional funds and resources to fly his mistresses into Washington; making sexual advances on women in his office; and then becoming angry when one of his female staffers brought her husband around.

Conyers was born in 1929 in Detroit, a city he would later represent on Capitol Hill. He served in the Korean War as a member of the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.  Following the war, Conyers earned his Bachelor of Arts and law degrees at Wayne State University.

In 1964, Conyers won his bid for Congress by 128 votes and once said an endorsement from Martin Luther King Jr. helped swing the votes in his favor. Rosa Parks helped Conyers lobby for King’s endorsement and Parks later worked as a secretary in the congressman’s Detroit office.

Conyers was elected to the House for decades, and he continued to win despite a changing political landscape in 2012. That year, Conyers faced a restructured district that incorporated more conservative, suburban voters, but he bested his Republican opponent by 82 percent of the vote.

While in Congress, Conyers focused his efforts on advancing civil rights legislation, expanding voting rights and improving the Michigan economy. Conyers included the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, the Martin Luther King Holiday Act of 1983, and the Alcohol Beverage Labeling Act of 1988 in his list of legislative achievements.

The Michigan Democrat was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Conyers served as chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on Government Operations, which is now known as the Committee on Oversight and Reform. He also served on the Judiciary Committee during the 1974 Watergate trials.

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