Key events in 'Mr. Chairman' Dingell's congressional career
John Dingell’s service spanned nearly a quarter of the history of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Where dad left off
1955: At age 29, John Dingell Jr. is elected to Congress in a special election, following the death of his father, a New Deal Democrat who won his seat during the Great Depression. In 1957, John Jr. introduces a bill to create national health insurance, his father's dream, and he reintroduced it in every session until the Affordable Care Act is approved in 2010.
Key player in Medicare
1965: Dingell is asked to preside over the House when it approves the bill creating the Medicare health program for seniors by a vote of 313-115. That day, he calls for the “desperately and vitally needed” health care assistance for older citizens. He kept the gavel on display.
Champion of environment
1970: Dingell becomes a major player in the nation's most sweeping laws that ban ocean dumping, protect endangered species and regulate air and water pollutants. One of the most important is the National Environmental Policy Act, signed in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, which requires federal agencies to consider environmental effects when making decisions.
Breaks with Nixon
1974: Dingell called for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in 1971. In 1974, he said he would vote to impeach Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal. He opposes the Nixon pardon in 1974 by his fellow Michiganian, President Gerald Ford.
Friend to automakers
1976: Dingell seeks a balance between environmental measures and auto-related regulations, clashing with environmentalists and some members of Congress. In the year of the nation’s bicentennial, he fights for a five-year delay of tougher exhaust standards under the Clean Air Act. By the early 1980s, Dingell fights against proposals to require air bags.
1981: Dingell becomes chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. For the next 27 years, he is either its chair or ranking Democrat.
Cleaning up Rouge River
1986: Dingell helps get $350 million in federal money during the next two decades to clean up the Rouge River. In 2001, President George W. Bush signs a Dingell bill creating the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge protecting fish and birds along the Detroit River. Dingell succeeds in getting Monroe’s River Raisin battlefield turned into a national park in October 2010.
Caring for veterans
1996-97: The veterans hospital in Allen Park is moved to a new facility in Detroit in 1996. The building is renamed the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in 1997 because of his long advocacy for veterans.
Primary rival crushed
2002: Redistricting throws Dingell into a primary contest with another Democrat, four-term Rep. Lynn Rivers of Ann Arbor. Dingell stresses his legislative achievements and long service. Rivers counters that with Republicans in charge, Dingell's seniority doesn't give him clout over her. Dingell wins 59-41 percent.
2008: After the November elections, Rep. Henry Waxman of California stuns Washington by defeating Dingell for the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell becomes “chairman emeritus.”
Health care milestone
2010: Dingell introduces the original “Affordable Health Care for America Act” proposal in 2009. “Today is a day that is going to rank with the day we passed the civil rights bill in 1964,” Dingell said on March 22, 2010, prior to a vote in the House, which approved the bill 219-212. Three days later, he sits at the side of Barack Obama as the president signs the Affordable Care Act into law.
2013: The Dearborn Democrat becomes the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, and the House names the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing room after him.
2014: In late November, President Barack Obama awards him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On Dec. 11, before he cast his final vote, he was applauded by House colleagues. A day later he was admitted to a Washington, D.C., hospital.
2015: Dingell donates 600 to 700 boxes of his congressional papers to the University of Michigan Bentley Library. He forms a partnership with UM, where he was an unpaid guest lecturer and scholar in residence at the Dearborn campus.
2016: Dingell adds Donald Trump as a prominent target in his political tweets.
2018: The longest-serving member of Congress publishes "The Dean: The Best Seat in the House" (HarperCollins). He is diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Source: Detroit News research