Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John David Dingell Jr. (born July 8 1926), Polish-American politician, is the Dean (longest-serving member) of the United States House of Representatives. A Democrat, he has represented a district in the working-class suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, since 1955 (currently the 15th district, map). Dingell's father, John D. Dingell, Sr. (1894-1955), represented the same district from 1933 to 1955. The Dingells are of Polish descent, and together they have represented the heavily Polish suburbs of Detroit for more than 70 years.
Dingell served in the United States Army during World War II, then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated in law in 1952. He worked as a Congressional employee, a forest ranger and a prosecuting attorney for Wayne County until 1955, when his father died and he succeeded him in his district. His district was called the 15th District 1955-65, the 16th District 1965-2003, and the 15th District again since 2003. Before the Democrats lost control of the House in 1994, Dingell was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and was regarded by analysts as one of the four or five most powerful members of the House.
Since 1955 Dingell has been re-elected 25 times, although the increasing conservatism of the white suburbs of Detroit since since the 1970s has led to several serious Republican challenges. With the retirement of Jamie L. Whitten at the start of a new Congress in January 1995, he became the longest-serving member in Congress.
In 2002 he successfully defeated a challenge in the Democratic primary election from a more liberal Democrat, Lynn Rivers, after redistricting by the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature following the United States 2000 Census resulted in the two Democratic incumbents being placed into the same district.
Dingell is generally classed as a liberal Democrat, and throughout his career he has been a leading congressional supporter of organised labor, of social welfare measures and of traditional progressive policies. On some issues, though, he reflects the conservative values of his largely Catholic and working-class district. He was a supporter of the Vietnam War until 1971. Although he supported the Johnson Administration's civil rights bills, he opposed campaigns to expand school desegregation to the Detroit suburbs via mandatory busing. He takes a moderately conservative position on abortion. He has voted against clean air bills if these appear to threaten Detroit's automobile industry. He strongly opposes gun control, and is a former board member of the National Rifle Association.
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 ]. 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."
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