John Conyers funeral set for Monday in Detroit; Bill Clinton to attend

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The funeral for former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. is set for Monday at 11 a.m. at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple, his wife Monica Conyers said Tuesday.

Greater Grace is located at 23500 W. Seven Mile in Detroit. Monica Conyers said several elected officials will be in attendance, including former President Bill Clinton.

"John Conyers was a champion for justice & equality who spent over 50 years in Congress fighting for the people of Detroit & beyond — including by co-sponsoring the Voting Rights Act, taking a role in the creation of Medicare & defending the Constitution on the Judiciary Committee," Clinton tweeted Monday.

Conyers, a Korean War veteran who was the longest serving African-American member of Congress in U.S. history, died Sunday at age 90. The Detroit Democrat, who served 53 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, built a reputation as a champion of civil rights.

Conyers will lie in state from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the museum said. The schedule still is subject to change. 

U.S. Rep. John Conyers speaks about health care at a town hall meeting on jobs and health care at Fellowship Chapel Church in Detroit on Aug. 22, 2017.

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In a Tuesday letter, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested the State Capitol Commission "authorize a period of time for the Congressman to lie in state in the Michigan State Capitol" in recognition of "his immense contribution to our state and its people."

Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969, which promotes the legislative concerns of black and minority communities.

But Capitol Commission member John Truscott said in a Wednesday email that Conyers, who never served in state government, would require a rule change to qualify for such treatment. Making an exception would require developing "new standards and rules," something that "I don’t think ... can be done in a few days."

Conyers was the third-longest-serving House member in U.S. history and the first African American to hold the title of dean, or member with the longest continuous service — a mantle he took on in 2015 after the retirement of Michigan's John Dingell Jr.

First elected in 1964, Conyers introduced the first bill to create a federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — an effort that languished for years until President Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983. Mr. Conyers first offered the bill four days after King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

For years, Conyers held a powerful position as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, to which he was appointed as a freshman lawmaker in 1965. He sat on the panel in 1974 when it investigated President Richard Nixon and later voted to submit articles of impeachment to the full House.

Conyers went on to chair the Judiciary Committee from 2007-11 and was chairman or ranking Democrat on the powerful House Oversight Committee from 1989 to 2004.

Notes of condolescences can be sent to the Conyers family at the Swanson's Funeral Home, 14751 W. McNichols Road, Detroit, MI 48235, according to a family press statement released Thursday.

Instead of flowers, the Conyers family is asking that contributions be made in memory of Rep. Conyers to the Wayne State University Law School. 

His legacy was clouded by allegations that he sexually harassed or mistreated several female staffers — complaints that prompted his resignation in December 2017. Conyers denied the claims of misconduct and said at the time of his resignation he hoped his departure would be viewed "in the larger perspective of my record of service."