The former Michigan Representative John Conyers Jr., who was the longest-serving African American in the history of US Congress, passed away in his Detroit home at the age of 90.
His death was confirmed by a family spokesperson. Detroit police also confirmed that the 90-year-old died in his home on Sunday in his sleep, apparently of natural causes.
Conyers was a Democrat and was an advocate of liberal causes for more than 50 years. He served as chair and ranking Democrat of the House Judiciary Committee for years. He was also the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, which he started in 1971.
He won his first election in 1964 with just 108 votes and became one of only six black House members at that time. After that, Conyers regularly won elections with over 80 percent of the votes.
Throughout his career, Conyers made some notable contributions to civil rights, earning him induction to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2005.
He fought for 15 years to declare Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday and finally won passage of legislation in 1983. He regularly introduced a bill to study the harm caused by slavery, though the bill never got past a House subcommittee. His district office also employed the legendary Rosa Parks from 1965 until she retired in 1988.
The former congressman was the only House Judiciary Committee member to have participated in two impeachment hearings of presidents of the United States. And while he supported the impeachment of President Richard Nixon for his conduct, he argued that President Bill Clinton’s behavior did not merit impeachment.
Conyers had resigned in 2017 after standing accused of sexual misconduct. A former female staff member alleged that she was fired for rejecting his sexual advances, while others admitted they witnessed Conyers inappropriately touching female staff members or requesting inappropriate favors.
The House Democratic leader at the time, Nancy Pelosi, and the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, demanded that Conyers step down. Though he denied the allegations, Conyers did resign, citing health reasons. He said that his legacy wouldn’t be “compromised or diminished” despite the accusations.