Conyers funeral set for Monday, after weekend of remembrances

Correction: Debbie Williams' granddaughter is named Laylah Pope. An earlier version of this story had the incorrect last name. 

Mourners will gather Monday for the funeral of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the longest-serving African-American member of Congress and a civil rights leader.

Some of the nation's top political and civil rights leaders, along with entertainment and sports stars, are expected in Detroit for the funeral after a weekend of remembrances for the man who became the Dean of the House of Representatives.

Among those expected at Greater Grace Temple are former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and John Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and scholar Michael Eric Dyson, who will deliver the eulogy.

According to the program, Stevie Wonder will perform at the ceremony before remarks by the congressman's sons, brother and wife.

Conyers, a Korean War veteran who was the third-longest-serving House member in U.S. history, died Oct. 27 at age 90.

Mourners gathered over the weekend to pay their respects as Conyers lay in state at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, including 4-year-old Laylah Pope of Detroit.

Monica Conyers looks at her late husband Congressman John Conyers, Jr., during visitation at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit on Nov. 3, 2019.

Her grandmother Debbie Williams came to Sunday's visitation, bringing the preschooler dressed in a cream-colored dress with matching ruffled socks to say goodbye to Conyers, who spent 53 years in the U.S. House building a reputation as a champion for civil and human rights.

"It's important for her to know about his history," Williams said. "When she gets older, she will know that she was here and will know what he accomplished."

Monica Conyers sat across from her husband's polished brown casket Saturday, saying "we share him with the world."

"Everyone here is telling me different stories of how my husband helped them," Monica Conyers said. "One who was in the military, another who had issues with the law, one lady who wanted to get her child back from another country. Just very touching to get to hear all the stories from the actual people he helped."

Cora Dolley of Detroit, center in black, speaks with Monica Conyers at the visitation for Congressman John Conyers, Jr.

She said it was befitting to have an open service for the public to pay their respects.

"We share him with the world. He's their brother, dad, uncle ... ever since I've known him, I've had to share him. So I figure I have to share him today too," she said.

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

His wife recalled some of his work she found had the most impact, including the Violence Against Women Act, Voter Registration Act, his work for the civil rights movement and especially, his work to aid minorities.

"I can't pinpoint to one thing ... I think a lot of people don't think about the minority set-asides because it was always big contractors getting all the business and the little companies never getting any. He put a 20% set aside for minority companies ... to give them a fair chance," she said. "He was glued to the television about (President) Donald Trump and the impeachment, but (he) always said it was a little too soon."

While she misses waking up and making him breakfast, Saturday was especially difficult because it was their youngest son's birthday.

Monica Conyers hugs an unidentified man during the visitation.  At right is Carl Conyers, son of Monica and John Conyers, Jr.

"His most profound legacy is his sons," she said. "I'm so happy that we got to spend the last two years with him not working. It's a lot for them to lose their dad and for me to lose my husband."

Willie Williams of Detroit said he respected Conyers' longevity and that he kept advocating for reforms he believed in, including pushing Congress for nearly 30 years to study paying reparations for slavery. 

"He kept reintroducing it," Williams said. "He didn't stop."

Mourners like 83-year-old Douglas Winston, a Detroiter and Army veteran, said he came Sunday because he wanted to show respect for Conyers' many years of service. 

"I just hope someone can continue the work he did," Winston said. 

His funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile, in Detroit, and condolences can be sent to Swanson's Funeral Home, 14751 W. McNichols in Detroit.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks contributions be made in the representative's name to Wayne State University Law School.