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Biden eulogizes John Dingell, longest serving congressman

Posted at 3:05 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 17:05:20-05

Former Vice President Joe Biden eulogized former Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the longest serving congressman on record, at a funeral Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, where he praised the late Democrat’s 59 years of service to his district.

“You all sent John back to Washington 30 different times. That’s never happened before. You did it — I believe, without knowing for sure — because you knew he knew who you were and what you needed,” Biden said during a Mass at the Church of Divine Child in Dingell’s former district. “He’s a man who knew where he came from, and he knew that public service wasn’t a title you wear but a shift that you work.”

Biden unexpectedly served as the lone eulogist for Dingell after two military planes bringing members of Congress to Michigan for the funeral were diverted back to Washington due to bad weather. Two of the members on those flights — Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan — had been slated to speak at the service.

Dingell died Thursday at the age of 92.

Family — including Dingell’s wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell — along with friends, constituents and former staffers gathered at the Catholic church in Dearborn to pay tribute to the former dean of the House, whose service on Capitol Hill shaped nearly six decades of American policy.

Dingell had cited his vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the most important vote of his 59-year career. Dingell, who was a strong advocate of the auto industry in his home state, was also instrumental in passing legislation such as Medicare, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Affordable Care Act.

The former vice president reflected on his personal connection to Dingell, whom Biden had met as a young senator from Delaware.

“I met a lot of great women and great men, and there’s only a few that I looked up to. I admire everyone that I worked with, but a few that I looked up to that I knew were better than I was at what they did. I knew they were more successful at what they set out to do than I was. And John Dingell was that man,” Biden said. “He gave me confidence. He made me believe more in myself than I had. John had that special capacity to do so because when you were with him, you knew you were with greatness.”

Biden praised Dingell’s commitment to his district, calling him a “die-hard man of Michigan” who had a penchant for singing “Hail to the Victors,” the fight song for the University of Michigan.

“His life, his work, was not about hailing the victors, it was about focusing on those who suffered and offering them a hand,” Biden said. “We mourn today because we knew John, and we stand up straighter. We work harder. We’ll face tomorrow with sharp minds and steel in our bones with dignity and respect for men and women if we really do want to do him any service at all.”

Later Tuesday afternoon, a motorcade carrying Dingell’s casket was slated to drive by the US Capitol. On Thursday, a second funeral will be held in Washington, where Dingell will be eulogized by former President Bill Clinton, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Dingell, a World War II veteran, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.