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Thu, 05.16.1929

One of Michigans own, John Conyers

John Conyers Jr.

On this date in 1929, John Conyers, Jr., was born. He was an Black politician and lawyer.

From Detroit, MI, after graduating from the Detroit public schools, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1957) and a Doctor of Law degree (1958) from Wayne State University.  Conyers served for one year in Korea as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was awarded combat and merit citations. From 1958 to 1961, Conyers worked as an aide to Congressman John Dingell. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1964, on a platform of "Jobs, Justice, and Peace." During his years in Congress, social justice and economic opportunity remained focal points of his Congressional career.

He was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, and authored or sponsored bill that the Alcohol Warning Label Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Hate Crime Statistics Act.   In 1983, Conyers introduced the original bill to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday and in 1994 worked on the Violence against Women Act. He attached crucial civil rights measures to the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, including the Racial Justice Act and the Police Accountability Act.

Conyers produced the Justice Department's national study on police brutality, and he held hearings in several cities on police violence, racially motivated violence, sentencing, white-collar crime, and other criminal justice matters. Conyers was re-elected in November 2000 to his 19th term in the House, winning 93 percent of the vote in Michigan's 14th Congressional District. He became the first African American to serve as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007.

His district was the City of Detroit and includes the Wayne County communities of Dearborn Heights, Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe Woods, Harper Woods, Highland Park, and Redford. Conyers was the second most senior member of the House and the longest-serving African American in the history of the house.

Conyers also is a jazz enthusiast and is responsible for the music’s classification as a national American treasure. Conyers is married to the former Monica Estersm and together they have raised two sons, John III and Carl Edward. In 2017, Conyers was one of several legislators accused of sexual harassment.  He chose to not seek reelection.

John Conyers died on October 27, 2019.  Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents Conyers' district, tweeted that he "never once wavered in fighting for jobs, justice and peace."  "We always knew where he stood on issues of equality and civil rights in the fight for the people," she said. "Thank you Congressman Conyers for fighting for us for over 50 years."

Reference:
Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990
E185.96.R25

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