John Dingell

For other people named John Dingell, see John Dingell (disambiguation).
John Dingell
43rd Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1995  January 3, 2015
Preceded by Jamie L. Whitten
Succeeded by John Conyers
Chairman of the House Energy Committee
In office
January 3, 2007  January 3, 2009
Preceded by Joe Barton
Succeeded by Henry Waxman
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan
In office
December 13, 1955  January 3, 2015
Preceded by John D. Dingell Sr.
Succeeded by Debbie Dingell
Constituency 15th district (1955–65)
16th district (1965–2003)
15th district (2003–13)
12th district (2013–15)
Personal details
Born John David Dingell Jr.
(1926-07-08) July 8, 1926
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Helen Henebry (1952–1972)
Debbie Insley (1981–present)
Children 4
Alma mater Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholic[1]
Website House website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1944–1946
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

John David Dingell Jr. (born July 8, 1926) is an American politician who was a member of the United States House of Representatives from December 13, 1955, until January 3, 2015. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He represented Michigan throughout his congressional tenure and most recently served as the representative for Michigan's 12th congressional district.

He began his congressional career representing Michigan's 16th district by succeeding his father, John Dingell Sr., who had held the seat for 22 years. Having served for over 59 years,[2] he has the longest Congressional tenure in U.S. history. He was also the longest-serving Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives and Dean of the Michigan congressional delegation. Dingell is one of the final two World War II veterans to have served in Congress; the other is Texas Congressman Ralph Hall, who also left Congress in 2015.[3] Dingell was a long-time member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired the committee over multiple Congresses.

Dingell announced on February 24, 2014, that he would not seek re-election to a 31st term in Congress.[4] His wife, Debbie Dingell, indicated that she planned to run to succeed her husband.[5] She won the November 4, 2014, general election, defeating Republican Terry Bowman, and succeeded him in the 114th Congress.[6]

President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.[7]

Early life, education, and early career

John David Dingell Jr. was born on July 8, 1926, 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 Austrian and Polish descent and his mother had Swiss and Scots-Irish ancestry.[8] The Dingells were in Colorado in search of a cure for Dingell Sr.'s tuberculosis. (See Tuberculosis treatment in Colorado Springs). The Dingell surname had been Dzieglewicz, and was "Americanized" by John Dingell Sr's father.[9][10] 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.[11]

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.[12][13] 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.[14] He won a full term in 1956 and was reelected 29 times, including runs in 1988[15] and 2006[16] with no Republican opponent. Dingell received 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 represented the southeastern Michigan area for 80 years.[17]

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.[18] 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,[19] 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. 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. (Fellow Representative Sidney Yates had entered the House earlier and, at that time, had served almost five years longer than Dingell, but Yates's service had been interrupted when he ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1962.[20]) He is one of four people to serve in the House for 50 years, the others being Whitten,[21] Carl Vinson,[22] and Conyers, the latter of whom had worked in Dingell's congressional office.[23]


Rep. Dingell with President Kennedy
Congressman Dingell and wife Debbie at the 2011 Ypsilanti Independence Day Parade

Dingell was generally classified as a moderately liberal member of the Democratic Party[24] and throughout his career he was a leading Congressional supporter of organized labor, social welfare measures and traditional progressive policies. At the beginning of every Congress, Dingell introduced 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.[24]

On some issues, though, he reflected the Democratic values of his largely Catholic and working-class district. He supported the Vietnam War until 1971.[25] He supported all the civil rights bills, but opposed expanding school desegregation to Detroit suburbs via mandatory busing.[26] He took a fairly moderate position on abortion.[27] He worked to balance clean air legislation with the need to protect manufacturing jobs.[28]

An avid sportsman and hunter, he strongly opposes gun control, and is a former board member of the National Rifle Association.[29] For many years, Dingell has received an A+ rating from the NRA.[29]

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.[18]

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".[30]

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.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33]

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.

Dingell is well known for his approach to Congressional oversight of the executive branch.[34] 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.[35]

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.[35] 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.[36]

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, and a portrait of him is in the House collection.[37]

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,[38] in a chapter of Horace Freeland Judson's 2004 book The Great Betrayal: Fraud In Science,[39] 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.[40] 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.[41]


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%.[42] 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."[42] Dingell is also a member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

Dingell has opposed[43][44] raising mandatory automobile fuel efficiency standards, which he helped to write in the 1970s.[45] Instead, he has indicated that he intends to pursue a regulatory structure that takes greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption into account.[36] 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[46] 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.[47]

Private sector ties

Dingell drew criticism for his ties to the automotive industry.[48] 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;[49] 1989-2006, intermediaries for these corporations have contributed more than $600,000 to his campaigns.[50] Dingell also held an unknown quantity, more than $US 1 million in 2005,[51] 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.[52] 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.[53]

Committee assignments

Caucus Memberships

Electoral history

Personal life

In 1981, Dingell married Debbie Dingell,[54] his second wife, who is 28 years his junior. He has four children from his first marriage to Helen Henebry, an airline flight attendant. Wed in 1952, they divorced in 1972.[55]

Dingell's son Christopher D. Dingell served in the Michigan State Senate and is currently a judge on the Michigan Third Circuit Court.[56][57]

Dingell's wife Debbie won the election to succeed him in November 2014 and took office in January 2015.[58] She is the first non-widowed woman to immediately succeed her husband in Congress.[59]


  1. Spangler, Todd (June 7, 2013). "Day 20,997 of Service: Rep. Dingell Hits Historic Mark". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  2. Good, Chris (June 7, 2013). "Frank Lautenberg and Senate Link to WW II Laid to Rest". ABC News. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  3. Finley, Nolan (February 24, 2014). "Michigan's Dingell Won't Reek Re-Election to Congress". The Detroit News.
  4. Allen, Mike (February 25, 2014). "Politico Playbook for Feb. 25, 2014". Politico. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  5. Allen, Jeremy (November 4, 2014). "Debbie Dingell defeats Terry Bowman in 12th District U.S. House race". MLive. Booth Newspapers.
  6. "President Obama Announces the Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". The White House. November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  7. "John Dingell". Rootsweb. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  8. Rosenbaum, David (September 30, 1991). "Washington at Work: Michigan Democrat Presides as Capital's Grand Inquisitor". The New York Times.
  9. Draper, Robert (2012). Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. p. 172.
  10. "Biography". Office of John D. Dingell. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008.
  11. "Primary Voters Head to Polls in Midwest: Michigan's Dingell Faces Strong Challenge". CNN. August 6, 2002.
  12. "Member profile, John Dingell". Roll Call. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  13. Hulse, Carl & Parker, Ashley (February 24, 2014). "John Dingell to Retire After Nearly 60 Years in House". Politics. The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  14. Fram, Alan (October 27, 1988). "Unopposed House Members Raise $15 Million for Campaigns". Associated Press. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  15. Chase, Benjamin S. (November 4, 2008). "Dingell Reelected in 15th District, Soon to Become Longest Serving Member of House". The Michigan Daily. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  16. Bendery, Jennifer (February 24, 2014). "John Dingell Retiring After Nearly 60 Years In Congress". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  17. 1 2 Barone, Michael (August 9, 2002). "The Victory of an Old-Fashioned Social Democrat". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  18. "Congressional District 15 MIchigan". National Atlas. United States Department of the Interior. 2005. Archived from the original on October 17, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  19. House of Representatives Biography of Sidney Yates
  20. House of Representatives Biography of Jamie Whitten
  21. House of Representatives Biography of Carl Vinson
  22. House of Representatives Biography of John Conyers
  23. 1 2 "John Dingell overview". Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  24. Stanton, Ryan J. (June 3, 2013). "John Dingell to Talk about Becoming Longest-Serving Congressman in Cistory on 'Colbert Report'". Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  25. see "Biography John Dingell" in Elections Meter
  26. "John Dingell on Abortion". Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  27. Phillips, Ari (February 24, 2014). "John Dingell, Retiring from Congress, Fought for Environmental Causes since before Carbon Was Measured". Think Progress.
  28. 1 2 "John Dingell on Gun Control". Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  29. "Retrieve Pages". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  30. ABC News Archived February 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. Spangler, Todd (March 26, 2008). "Dingell Goes for Record by Running for 28th Term". Detroit Free Press.
  32. Ostermeier, Eric (June 9, 2013). "2,445 US Representatives Who Served with John Dingell". Smart Politics.
  33. Miller, Henry I. (November 25, 2008). "Dingell's Grand Inquisitor Politics". The Wall Street Journal.
  34. 1 2 "Let's Talk: What Would Victorious Democrats Do?". October 22, 2006. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  35. 1 2 Von Drehle, David (June 11, 2007). "An Auto Insider Takes on Climate Change". Time. 169 (24). Retrieved November 24, 2014. (subscription required (help)).
  36. "John David Dingell, Jr.". History, Arts & Archives. U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  37. The Baltimore Case. ISBN 0-393-04103-4.
  38. Judson, Horace Freeland (2004). The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science.
  39. Baltimore Sun
  40. Prusiner, SB (November 2002). "Historical Essay: Discovering the Cause of AIDS". Science. 298 (5599): 1726. doi:10.1126/science.1079874. PMID 12459574.
  41. 1 2 Bayard, Louis, ed. (October 2006) [2006]. "'06 National environmental scorecard (second session 109th congress)" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  42. "The Democrats Lag on Warming". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  43. "Auto Chiefs Make Headway Against a Mileage Increase". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  44. "". December 21, 2006. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  45. Hebert, H. Josef; Thomas, Ken (December 1, 2007). "Dems Reach Deal on Energy Bill". Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 3, 2007. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  46. "Truth in Global Warming". The Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2007.
  47. "". Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  48. "Center for Responsive Politics". June 17, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  49. "John D. Dingell: Campaign Finance/Money, Contributions, 1989-2006". Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  50. "Financial disclosure statement for calendar year 2005" (PDF). United States House of Representatives. May 15, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2, 2012.
  51. Carlson, Margaret (March 30, 1992). "Ethics When Spouses Earn Paychecks". Time. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  52. "Debbie Dingell". Board of Governors. Wayne State University. January 1, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  53. Davis, Teddy (June 7, 2005). "Dingell's Powerful Wife: Bridge Between Michigan and D.C". Roll Call. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  54. Chambers, Andrea (June 23, 1986). "Congressman John Dingell Makes Washington Quake, but Not His Executive Wife, Debbie". People. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  55. Black, Eric (February 11, 2009). "19,420 Days and Counting". MinnPost.
  56. "3rd Circuit Court, Michigan". Judgepedia. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  57. Allen, Jeremy (November 4, 2014). "Debbie Dingell defeats Terry Bowman in 12th District U.S. House race". MLive. Booth Newspapers.
  58. Ostermeier, Eric (February 26, 2014). "Debbie Dingell Eyes Historic Win in 2014". Smart Politics.

Further reading

  • Barone, Michael (1975–2013). The Almanac of American Politics.  Published biennially, this series has a detailed summary of Dingell's political and Congressional roles and key votes in each Congress since 1974.
  • "John David Dingell, Jr.". Biography. Detroit: Gale. 2002. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1650002705. 
Wikiquote has quotations related to: John Dingell
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Dingell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by
William Ford
Preceded by
John Lesinski Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 16th congressional district

Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 15th congressional district

Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Sander Levin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Debbie Dingell
Preceded by
Harley Staggers
Chairman of the House Energy Committee
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Bliley Jr.
Preceded by
Joe Barton
Chairman of the House Energy Committee
Succeeded by
Henry Waxman
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Kenneth Gray
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Dan Rostenkowski
Preceded by
Jamie Whitten
Dean of the House
Succeeded by
John Conyers
Most Senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Melvin Laird
Most Senior Living U.S. Representative
(Sitting or Former)

November 16, 2016–present
Current holder
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