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John Dingell
43rd Dean of the United States House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 3, 1995
Preceded by Jamie L. Whitten
Member of the United States House of Representatives

Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Sander Levin
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Succeeded by District eliminated

In office
December 13, 1955[1] – January 3, 1965[2]
Preceded by John D. Dingell, Sr.
Succeeded by William Ford
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by John Lesinski
Succeeded by District eliminated
Chairman Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

In office
January 5, 2009 – January 5, 2011
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Joe Barton
Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

In office
January 5, 2007 – January 5, 2009
Preceded by Joe Barton
Succeeded by Henry Waxman

In office
January 5, 1981 – January 5, 1995
Preceded by Harley Orrin Staggers
Succeeded by Thomas J. Bliley, Jr.
Personal details
Born John David Dingell, Jr.
July 8, 1926(1926-07-08) (age 96)
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Helen Henebry (1952–1972; divorced)
Deborah Dingell (1981–present)
Children 4
Residence Dearborn, Michigan
Alma mater Georgetown University
Occupation Attorney
Website The Honorable John D. Dingell
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1944–1946
Rank US-O1 insignia.svg Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

John David Dingell, Jr. (born July 8, 1926) is an American politician who has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since December 13, 1955. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

He is the longest-serving member of the House, having served for over 58 years;[1] he has the longest uninterrupted Congressional tenure in U.S. history, and is the currently serving member of Congress with the longest tenure.[3] He is also the current and longest-serving Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Dean of the Michigan congressional delegation. Dingell is one of two World War II veterans still serving in Congress; the other is Texas Congressman Ralph Hall.[4] Dingell is a long-time member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chaired the committee over multiple Congresses.

Dingell's district was first in western Detroit, but redistricting has successively moved him further into the city's western suburbs.[citation needed] Since 2013, he has represented Michigan's 12th congressional district.

Dingell announced on February 24, 2014 that he would not seek re-election to a 30th term in Congress.[5]

Early life, education, and early career

Dingell was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the son of Grace (née Bigler) and John D. Dingell, Sr. (1894–1955), who represented Michigan's 15th district from 1933 to 1955. His father was of Polish descent and his mother had Swiss and Scots-Irish ancestry.[6] The Dingells were in Colorado in search of a cure for John D. Dingell, Sr.'s tuberculosis. The Dingell surname had been Dzieglewicz, and was "Americanized" by John Dingell, Sr's father.[7][8] John Dingell, Sr. capitalized on the change in his first campaign for office with the slogan 'Ring (in) with Dingell.'

In Washington, D.C., John, Jr. attended Georgetown Preparatory School and then the House Page School when he served as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1938 to 1943. He was on the floor of the House when President Roosevelt gave his famous speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In 1944, at the age of 18, Dingell joined the United States Army. He rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant and received orders to take part in the first wave of a planned invasion of Japan in November 1945; the Congressman has said President Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war saved his life.[9]

He then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1949 and a J.D. in 1952.[10][11] He was a lawyer in private practice, a research assistant to U.S. Circuit Court judge Theodore Levin, a Congressional employee, a forest ranger, and assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County until 1955.

U.S. House of Representatives


Dingell sworn in by Speaker Rayburn in 1955

In 1955, John, Sr. died and John, Jr. won a special election to succeed him. He won a full term in 1956 and has been reelected 29 times, including runs in 1988 and 2006 with no Republican opponent. He has taken less than 62% of the vote on only two occasions. In 1994 when the Republican Revolution swept the Republicans into the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1954, Dingell received 59% of the vote. In 2010 when the Republicans re-took control of the House of Representatives, Dingell received 57% of the vote. Between them, he and his father have represented the southeastern Michigan area for 80 years.

His district was numbered as the 15th District from 1955 to 1965, when redistricting merged it into the Dearborn-based 16th District; in the primary that year, he defeated 16th District incumbent John Lesinski, Jr.

In 2002, redistricting merged Dingell's 16th District with the Washtenaw County and western Wayne County-based 13th District, represented by fellow Democratic Representative Lynn Rivers, whom Dingell also bested in the Democratic primary.[12] The 15th District for the 109th Congress included Wayne County suburbs generally southwest of Detroit, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas in Washtenaw County, and all of Monroe County. For many years, Dingell represented much of western Detroit itself,[13] though Detroit's declining population and the growth of its suburbs has pushed all of Detroit into the districts of fellow Democratic representatives, including John Conyers. Dingell has always won re-election by double-digit margins, although the increasing conservatism of the white suburbs of Detroit since the 1970s led to several serious Republican challenges in the 1990s. He has won his last two elections, however, with over 70 percent of the vote. With the retirement of Jamie L. Whitten, the death of William Natcher, and the defeat of Texas Representative Jack Brooks at the start of a new Congress in January 1995, he became the Dean of the United States House of Representatives even though fellow Representative Sidney Yates had served non-consecutive terms earlier than Dingell. He is one of three people to serve in the House for 50 years, the others being Whitten and Carl Vinson.


Rep. Dingell with President Kennedy

Congressman Dingell and wife Debbie at the 2011 Ypsilanti Independence Day Parade

Rep. Dingell and Rep. Rahm Emanuel sharing pączki

Dingell is generally classified as a liberal member of the Democratic Party and throughout his career he has been a leading Congressional supporter of organized labor, social welfare measures and traditional progressive policies. At the beginning of every Congress, Dingell introduces a bill providing for a national health insurance system, the same bill that his father proposed while he was in Congress. Dingell also strongly supported Bill Clinton's managed-care proposal early in his administration.

On some issues, though, he reflects the Democrat values of his largely Catholic and working-class district. He supported the Vietnam War until 1971. Although he backed the Johnson Administration's civil rights bills, he opposed expanding school desegregation to Detroit suburbs via mandatory busing. He takes a fairly moderate position on abortion. He has worked to balance clean air legislation with the need to protect manufacturing jobs.

An avid sportsman and hunter, he strongly opposes gun control, and is a former board member of the National Rifle Association. For many years, Dingell has received an A+ rating from the NRA.[citation needed]

The political analyst Michael Barone wrote of Dingell in 2002:

There is something grand about the range of Dingell's experience and about his adherence to his philosophy over a very long career. He is an old-fashioned social Democrat who knows that most voters don't agree with his goals of a single-payer national health insurance plan but presses forward toward that goal as far as he can." 'It's hard to believe that there was once no Social Security or Medicare', he says. 'The Dingell family helped change that. My father worked on Social Security and for national health insurance, and I sat in the chair and presided over the House as Medicare passed (in 1965). I went with Lyndon Johnson for the signing of Medicare at the Harry S. Truman Library, and I have successfully fought efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare'. Whether you agree or disagree, the social Democratic tradition is one of the great traditions in our history, and John Dingell has fought for it for a very long time.[12]

On December 15, 2005, on the floor of the House, Dingell read a poem sharply critical of, among other things, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly and the so-called "War on Christmas".[14]

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006, Dingell brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was ultimately dismissed for lack of standing.[15]

After winning re-election in 2008 for his 28th consecutive term, Dingell surpassed Whitten's record for having the longest tenure in the House on February 11, 2009.[16] In honor of the record, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm declared February 11, 2009, to be John Dingell Day.

As of June 9, 2013, Dingell had served with 2,445 different U.S. Representatives in his career.[17]

Energy and Commerce chairman

During his first stint as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell was regarded by analysts as one of the four or five most powerful members of the House.[citation needed]

Dingell is well known for his approach to Congressional oversight of the executive branch.[18] He has subpoenaed numerous government officials to testify before the committee and grilled them for hours. Insisting that all who testify before his committee do so under oath, thus exposing them to perjury charges if they did not tell the truth, he and his committee have uncovered numerous instances of corruption and waste, such as the use of $600 toilet seats at the Pentagon. He also claims that the committee's work led to resignations of many Environmental Protection Agency officials, and uncovered information that led to legal proceedings that sent many Food and Drug Administration officials to jail.[19]

After serving as the committee's ranking Democratic member for 12 years, Dingell regained the chairmanship in 2007. According to Newsweek, he had wanted to investigate the George W. Bush Administration's handling of port security, the Medicare prescription drug program and Dick Cheney's energy task force.[19] Time magazine has stated that he had intended to oversee legislation that addresses global warming and climate change caused by carbon emissions from automobiles, energy companies and industry (citation: June 2007 issue, Time magazine).

Dingell lost the chairmanship for the 111th Congress to Congressman Henry Waxman of California in a Democratic caucus meeting on November 20, 2008. Waxman mounted a challenge against Dingell on grounds that Dingell was stalling certain environmental legislation, which would have tightened vehicle emissions standards—something that could be detrimental to the Big Three automobile manufacturers that constitute a major source of employment in Dingell's district. Dingell was given the title of Chairman Emeritus in a token of appreciation of his years of service on the committee.

Baltimore case

In the 1980s, Dingell led a series of Congressional hearings to pursue alleged scientific fraud by Thereza Imanishi-Kari and Nobel Prize-winner David Baltimore. The NIH's fraud unit, then called the Office of Scientific Integrity, charged Imanishi-Kari in 1991 of falsifying data and recommended that she be barred from receiving research grants for 10 years. Later, a newly-constituted HHS appeals panel of political appointees dismissed the charges against Imanishi-Kari. The findings and negative publicity surrounding them forced David Baltimore to resign as president of Rockefeller University and caused Imanishi-Kari to lose a tenure-track position. The story of the case is described in Daniel Kevles' 1998 book The Baltimore Case,[20] in a chapter of Horace Freeland Judson's 2004 book The Great Betrayal: Fraud In Science,[21] and in a 1993 study by Serge Lang, updated and reprinted in his book Challenges (New York: Springer-Verlag; 1997).

Robert Gallo and the controversy on who discovered the AIDS virus

From 1991 to 1995 Dingell's staff investigated claims that Robert Gallo had used samples supplied to him by Luc Montagnier to fraudulently claim to have discovered the AIDS virus. The report concluded that Gallo had engaged in fraud and that the NIH covered up his misappropriation of work by the French team at the Institut Pasteur. The report contended that:

The real inventors of the HIV blood test were the (Pasteur) scientists. Even more important, the CDC data, together with the extensive data already accumulated by the (Pasteur) scientists, showed that the (Pasteur) virus—discovered long before the putative LTCB virus—was the cause of AIDS.

The report was never formally published as a subcommittee report because of the 1995 change in control of the House from Democratic to Republican.[22] Other accusations against Gallo were dropped, and while Montagnier's group is considered to be the first to isolate the virus, Gallo's has been recognized as first to prove that this virus was the cause of AIDS.[23]


For his conduct regarding environmental issues during the 109th Congress the lobby group League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has awarded Dingell its highest rating, 100%.[24] According to the LCV, Dingell voted "pro-environment" on twelve out of twelve issues the group deemed critical; they also praised him for introducing, along with representatives James Oberstar and Jim Leach, an amendment compelling the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind a directive issued in 2003 by the Bush Administration "requiring EPA staff to get permission from headquarters before protecting 'isolated' water bodies like vernal pools, prairie potholes, playa lakes and bogs," which provide "critical wildlife habitat, store flood water, and protect drinking water supplies."[24] Dingell is also a member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

Dingell has opposed[25][26] raising mandatory automobile fuel efficiency standards, which he helped to write in the 1970s.[27] Instead, he has indicated that he intends to pursue a regulatory structure that takes greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption into account.[28] In a July 2007 interview with, he said “I have made it very plain that I intend to see to it that CAFE is increased” and pointed out that his plan would have Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards increased tantamount to those in the Senate bill recently passed. In November 2007, working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Dingell helped draft an energy bill[29] that would mandate 40% increase in fuel efficiency standards.

In July 2007, Dingell indicated he planned to introduce a new tax on carbon usage in order to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The policy has been criticized by some, as polling numbers show voters may be unwilling to pay for the changes. A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that vehicle emissions standards that he supports will not yield any substantial greenhouse gas emissions savings.[30]

Private sector ties

Dingell has drawn criticism for his ties to the automotive industry.[31] The three largest contributors to his campaign for the 2006 election cycle are political action committees, employees, or other affiliates of General Motors, Ford Motor Company and DaimlerChrysler;[32] 1989-2006, intermediaries for these corporations have contributed more than $600,000 to his campaigns.[33] Dingell also held an unknown quantity, more than $US 1 million in 2005,[34] in assets through General Motors stock options and savings-stock purchase programs; his wife, Debbie Dingell is a descendant of one of the Fisher brothers, founders of Fisher Body, a constituent part of General Motors. She worked as a lobbyist for the corporation until they married. She then moved to an administrative position there.[35] As of June 2007, Mrs. Dingell was executive director of Global Community Relations and Government Relation at GM and vice chair of the General Motors Foundation.[36]

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Energy and Commerce
    • Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
    • Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Power (ex officio)
    • Subcommittee on Environment and Economy
    • Subcommittee on Health
    • Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (ex officio)

Electoral history

Personal life

Dingell married Deborah Dingell in 1981,[37] his second wife, who is 28 years his junior. He has four children from his first marriage in 1952 to Helen Henebry, an airline flight attendant; they divorced in 1972.[38] Dingell's son Christopher D. Dingell served in the Michigan State Senate and is currently a judge on the Michigan Third Circuit Court.[39][40]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Spangler, Todd (June 7, 2013). "Day 20,997 of service: Rep. Dingell hits historic mark". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  2. "MI District 15 Race - Nov 06, 1962". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  3. Bacon Jr., Perry (February 11, 2009). "Dingell Is Longest-Serving House Member". 
  4. Good, Chris (June 7, 2013). "Frank Lautenberg and Senate Link to WW II Laid to Rest". ABC News. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  5. Finley, Nolan (February 24, 2014). "Michigan's Dingell won't seek re-election to Congress". Archived from the original on February 24, 2014. 
  6. "john dingell". Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  7. David Rosenbaum, New York Times, Washington at Work; Michigan Democrat Presides As Capital's Grand Inquisitor, September 30, 1991
  8. Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, 2012, page 172
  9. Old version of biography at his official House web site[dead link]
  10. CNN, Primary voters head to polls in Midwest: Michigan's Dingell faces strong challenge, August 6, 2002
  11. Roll Call, Member profile, John Dingell. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Barone, Michael (August 9, 2002). "The victory of an old-fashioned social Democrat". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  13. "Congressional District 15 MIchigan". United States Department of the Interior. 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  14. "Retrieve Pages". Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  15. ABC News[dead link]
  16. Todd Spangler, "Dingell goes for record by running for 28th term", Detroit Free Press, March 26, 2008.
  17. Ostermeier, Eric (June 9, 2013). "2,445 US Representatives Who Served with John Dingell". Smart Politics. 
  18. Henry I. Miller, M.D. (The Hoover Institution), ["Dingell's Grand Inquisitor Politics"], The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2008.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Let's Talk • View topic – What would victorious Democrats do?". October 22, 2006. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  20. The Baltimore Case. ISBN 0-393-04103-4.
  21. Horace Freeland Judson, The Great Betrayal : Fraud in Science, 1st. Ed., 2004
  22. Baltimore Sun[dead link]
  23. Prusiner SB (November 2014). "Historical essay. Discovering the cause of AIDS". p. 1726. Digital object identifier:10.1126/science.1079874. PMID 12459574. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Bayard, Louis (et al.), ed (October 2006). "'06 National environmental scorecard (second session 109th congress)". League of Conservation Voters. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  25. "The Democrats Lag on Warming". Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  26. "Auto Chiefs Make Headway Against a Mileage Increase". Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  27. "". December 21, 2006. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  28. Von, David (May 31, 2007). "An Auto Insider Takes on Climate Change". TIME.,9171,1627016,00.html. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  29. Hebert, H. Josef; Thomas, Ken (December 1, 2007). "Dems Reach Deal on Energy Bill". Archived from the original on 2011-12-03. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  30. "Truth in Global Warming". The Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2007. 
  31. "". Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  32. "Center for Responsive Politics". June 17, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  33. [ "John D. Dingell: Campaign Finance/Money - Contributions - 1989-2006"]. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  34. "Financial disclosure statement for calendar year 2005". United States House of Representatives. May 15, 2006. Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. 
  35. Carlson, Margaret (March 30, 1992). "Ethics When Spouses Earn Paychecks". TIME.,9171,975177-2,00.html. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  36. "Board of Governors - Debbie Dingell". January 1, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  37. Davis, Teddy (June 7, 2005). "Dingell’s Powerful Wife: Bridge Between Michigan and D.C". Roll Call. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  38. Chambers, Andrea (June 23, 1986). "Congressman John Dingell Makes Washington Quake, but Not His Executive Wife, Debbie". People magazine.,,20093934,00.html. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  39. Eric Black, 19,420 Days and Counting, MinnPost, February 11, 2009
  40. "3rd Circuit Court, Michigan". Judgepedia. February 10, 2014.,_Michigan. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 

Further reading

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John D. Dingell, Sr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 15th congressional district

December 13, 1955 – January 3, 1965
Succeeded by
William D. Ford
Preceded by
John Lesinski, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 16th congressional district

January 3, 1965 – January 3, 2003
District eliminated
Preceded by
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 15th congressional district

January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2013
District eliminated
Preceded by
Sander Levin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 12th congressional district

January 3, 2013 – present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Dick Cheney
as most recent former Vice President
United States Representatives by seniority
1st (also "Dean of the United States House of Representatives")
Succeeded by
John Conyers
Political offices
Preceded by
Harley Staggers
Chairman of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1995
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Bliley
Preceded by
Joe Barton
Chairman of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Succeeded by
Henry Waxman
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Kenneth J. Gray
Baby of the House
December 13, 1955 – January 3, 1959
Succeeded by
Dan Rostenkowski
Preceded by
Jamie L. Whitten
Dean of the House
January 3, 1995 – present

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