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John Conyers

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John Conyers

John Conyers
44th Dean of the United States House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by John Dingell
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Jim Sensenbrenner
Succeeded by Lamar S. Smith
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Jack Brooks
Succeeded by William F. Clinger, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 13th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Hansen Clarke
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Dennis Hertel
Succeeded by Gary Peters
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Lucien Nedzi
Succeeded by Bart Stupak
Personal details
Born John James Conyers, Jr.
(1929-05-16) May 16, 1929
Highland Park, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Monica Esters (1990–present)
Children John
Alma mater Wayne State University
Religion Baptist
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Army National Guard
United States Army
Years of service 1948–1950
Battles/wars Korean War

John James Conyers, Jr. (born May 16, 1929) is the U.S. Representative for Michigan's 13th congressional district,[1] serving in Congress since 1965 (the district was numbered as the 1st District until 1993, and as the 14th district from 1993 to 2013). The district includes the western half of Detroit, as well as Dearborn, Highland Park, and most of the downriver suburbs including Wyandotte and Romulus. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Conyers, as its longest-serving current member, is the Dean of the House of Representatives. He is also the oldest and the longest-serving current member of the United States Congress.


  • Early life, education, and early career 1
  • Detroit Mayoral campaigns 2
    • 1989 2.1
    • 1993 2.2
  • U.S. House of Representatives 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
    • Committee assignments 3.3
    • Caucus membership 3.4
  • Electoral history 4
  • Personal life 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life, education, and early career

After graduating from Northwestern High School in Detroit, Conyers served in the Michigan National Guard 1948–50; U.S. Army 1950–54; and the U.S. Army Reserves 1954–57. Conyers served for a year in Korea as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was awarded combat and merit citations.[2] Conyers grew up in Detroit, and received both his B.A. and his law degree from Wayne State University.

Conyers was present in Selma, Alabama, on October 7, 1963, for the civil rights movement voter registration drive known as Freedom Day.[3] He served as an assistant to U.S. Congressman John Dingell, Jr., prior to his election to Congress.

Detroit Mayoral campaigns

While serving in the U.S. House, Conyers made two unsuccessful runs for mayor of Detroit: one in 1989 against incumbent Coleman Young and again in 1993.[4]


Incumbent Democratic Mayor Coleman Young decided to run for a fifth term, despite growing unpopularity and the declining economy of Detroit. In the September primary, Young won with 51% of the vote. Accountant Tom Barrow qualified for the November run off by getting second place with 24% and Conyers got third place with 18% of the vote.[5] Young defeated Barrow in the run off with 56% of the vote.[6]


In June 1993, incumbent Democratic Mayor Coleman Young decided to retire instead of seeking a sixth term, citing his age and health, although many believed he decided not to run because of his growing unpopularity. In a Detroit News poll in February, 81% said Young should retire.[7] Conyers was one of the 23 candidates who qualified for ballot access.[8] Dennis Archer was a clear front runner from the beginning. He was a 51-year-old former State Supreme Court Justice who raised over $1.6 million. He won the September primary with 54% of the vote. Conyers came in fourth place.[9] Archer won the November election.

U.S. House of Representatives

An earlier congressional photo of Conyers


In 1964, he ran for an open seat in what was then the 1st District, and defeated Republican Robert Blackwell with 84% of the vote. He was reelected 13 times with even larger margins. After the 1990 United States Census, Michigan lost a congressional district and Conyers's district was renumbered to the 14th district. In 1992, he won re-election to his 15th term in his new district with 82% of the vote against Republican nominee John Gordon. He won re-election another nine times after that. His worst re-election performance was in 2010, when he got 77% of the vote against Republican nominee Don Ukrainec.

In total, he has won re-election twenty-five times and is serving in his twenty-sixth term. He is the longest-serving current member of the House, the longest-serving current member of the entire Congress, the fourth longest-serving member of the House in history, and the seventh longest-serving member of Congress in history. He is the second-longest serving member of either house of Congress in Michigan's history, trailing only his former boss, Dingell. He is also the last member of the large Democratic freshman class of 1964 who is still serving in the House.

In May 2014, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett determined that Conyers had not submitted enough valid nominating petition signatures to appear on the August 2014 Primary Election ballot.[10] Two of his petition circulators were found not to have been registered voters at the time they were collecting signatures, as required under Michigan law. However, on May 23, Federal District Judge Matthew Leitman issued an injunction placing Conyers back on the ballot, ruling that the requirement that circulators be registered voters was similar to an Ohio law previously found unconstitutional by a Federal appeals court in 2008.[11] The Michigan Secretary of State's office subsequently announced they would not appeal the ruling.[12]


Conyers is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and is considered the Dean of that group. Formed in 1969, the CBC was founded to strengthen African-American lawmakers' ability to address the legislative concerns of Black and minority citizens. He has served longer in Congress than any other African American. In 1971, he was one of the original members of Nixon's Enemies List.

In 1965, John Conyers won a seat as a freshman on the influential Judiciary Committee, which was then under the leadership of Democratic Congressman Emanuel Celler of New York. At the time, the assignment was an elite one, as Judiciary ranked behind only Ways and Means and Appropriations in terms of the number of Members who sought assignment there.[13]

According to the John Lewis, Jim McDermott, and Barbara Lee, to be one of the most liberal members of Congress for many years. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks served on Conyers' staff between 1965 and 1988.

Conyers is known as one of the opponents of the drive to regulate online gambling. He has likened the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, hidden within the SAFE Port Act, to Prohibition.

After Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Conyers introduced the first bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday. It is now celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Conyers introduced the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act" (H.R. 40) in January 1989, and has re-introduced anew this bill each congressional term. This bill calls for the creation of a commission to research the history of slavery and its effects on current America, resulting in recommendations on how to remedy this injustice. Its current version was introduced and referred to committee on January 3, 2013.[14]

Conyers first introduced the House of Resolution 40 in 1989, and have annual proposed this act until it is approved and passed. The House Resolution 40 expresses the impact of slavery's brutal institution on today's society, politics, and economy. "My bill does four things: It acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inhumanity of slavery It establishes a commission to study slavery, its subsequent racial and economic discrimination against freed slaves; It studies the impact of those forces on today's living African Americans; and The commission would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans."[15]

Nixon and Watergate

Conyers was critical of Richard Nixon during his tenure, and as a result was number 13 on President Richard Nixon's enemies list during Nixon's 1969–74 presidential tenure. The president's Chief Counsel described him as "coming on fast," and that he was "emerging" as a "black anti-Nixon spokesman."[16][17]

Conyers voted on the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon in July 1974. He is the last remaining member of the House Judiciary Committee who did so, although another fellow Committee member, Democratic Congressman Charles B. Rangel, of New York, is still in Congress.

National Health Care Act

The United States National Health Care Act (Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act) (H.R. 676) is a bill submitted to the United States House of Representatives by Conyers which, as of September 29, 2008, has 93 cosponsors. It was first introduced, with 25 cosponsors, in 2003,[18] and reintroduced each session since then. The act calls for the creation of a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, in which the government would provide every resident health care free of charge. In order to eliminate disparate treatment between richer and poorer Americans, the Act would also prohibit private insurers from covering any treatment or procedure already covered by the Act. The bill is currently in the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health.

Downing Street memo

On May 5, 2005, Conyers and 88 other members of Congress wrote an open letter to the White House inquiring about the Downing Street memo, a leaked memorandum that revealed an apparent secret agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom to attack Iraq in 2002. The Times reported that newly discovered documents reveal British and U.S. intentions to invade Iraq and leaders of the two countries had "discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so." The documents go on to say that Tony Blair decided the United States would need to "create" conditions to justify the war.

The memo story broke in the United Kingdom, but did not receive much coverage in the United States, prompting Conyers to lament: "This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride."[19] Conyers and others reportedly considered sending a congressional investigation delegation to London.[20]

What Went Wrong In Ohio

In May, 2005, Conyers released What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report On The 2004 Presidential Election, which discusses the voting irregularities in the state of Ohio during the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. The evidence offered consists of statistical abnormalities in the differences between exit poll results and actual votes registered at those locations. The book also discusses reports of faulty electronic voting machines and the lack of credibility of those machines used to tally votes.

He was one of 31 members of the House who voted not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.[21]

The Constitution in Crisis

On August 4, 2006, Conyers released his report, The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retributions and Cover-ups in the Iraq War, an edited collection of information intended to serve as evidence that the Bush Administration altered intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Constitution in Crisis examines much of the evidence presented by the Bush Administration prior to the invasion and questions the credibility of their sources of intelligence. In addition, the document investigates the conditions that led to the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as further evidence of torture having been committed but not made known to the public. Finally, the document reports on a series of "smear tactics" purportedly used by the administration in dealing with its political adversaries.

The document calls for the impeachment proceedings.

On anti-Muslim intolerance

Conyers has proposed House Resolution 288, which condemns “religious intolerance” but emphasizes Islam as needing special protection from acts of violence and intolerance. It states that “it should never be official policy of the United States Government to disparage the Quran, Islam, or any religion in any way, shape, or form,” and “calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.” The bill was referred to the House subcommittee on the Constitution in June 2005.

Conyers v. Bush

See also Conyers v. Bush

In April 2006 Conyers, together with ten other senior congressmen, filed an action in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, challenging the constitutionality of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The complaint alleged the bill was not afforded due consideration by the United States Congress before being signed by the President.[22] The action was subsequently dismissed on grounds of lack of standing.[23]

Ethics controversy
In letters sent separately to the House Ethics Committee, the FBI, and the US Attorney's office, two former aides of Conyers alleged that Conyers used his staff to work on several local and state campaigns, and forced them to baby-sit and chauffeur his children.[24] In late December 2006, Conyers "accepted responsibility" for possibly violating House rules. A statement issued December 29, 2006, by the House Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Ranking Minority Member Howard Berman (D-CA), said that Conyers acknowledged what he characterized as a "lack of clarity" in his communications with staff members regarding their official duties and responsibilities, and accepted responsibility for his actions. In deciding to drop the matter, Hastings and Berman stated:
After reviewing the information gathered during the inquiry, and in light of Representative Conyers’ cooperation with the inquiry, we have concluded that this matter should be resolved through the issuance of this public statement and the agreement by Representative Conyers to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff.[25]

Also, in 1992, he was implicated in the House banking scandal.

Copyright controversy

Conyers has come under fire from scientific and taxpayers' advocacy groups[26] for repeatedly introducing a bill that would overturn NIH Public Access Policy, and forbid the government from mandating that federally funded research be made freely available to the public.[27] Critics assert that Conyers has been influenced by publishing houses who have contributed significant money to Conyers.[28]

House Report on George W. Bush presidency and proposed inquiry

On January 13, 2009, the House Committee on the Judiciary, led by Conyers, released "Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush," a 486-page report detailing alleged abuses of power that occurred during the Bush administration, and a comprehensive set of recommendations to prevent recurrence. Conyers has introduced a bill to set up a "truth commission" panel to investigate alleged policy abuses of the Bush administration.[29][30]

Bill reading controversy

In late July 2009, Conyers, commenting on the

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lucien Nedzi
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Bart Stupak
Preceded by
Dennis Hertel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Gary Peters
Preceded by
Hansen Clarke
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 13th congressional district

Preceded by
Jack Brooks
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee
Succeeded by
William F. Clinger, Jr.
Preceded by
Jim Sensenbrenner
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Lamar S. Smith
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John Dingell
Dean of the House
Most Senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Dick Cheney
as former Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States Succeeded by
United States Representatives by seniority
First United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Charles Rangel
  • It's time for Karl Rove to go: The president needs to ask for a special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case Congressman John Conyers, Jr., (October 15, 2003)
  • Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio: Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff (prepared at the request of Congressman John Conyers, January 5, 2005)
  • Open letter to George W. Bush, re: Downing Street Memo (originally signed by 89 US Congress members), John Conyers, et al. (May 5, 2005)
  • Bush asked to explain UK war memo CNN (May 12, 2005)
  • The Downing Street Memo John Conyers (May 27, 2005)
  • Congressman John Conyers Talks About Bush Lying America Into War and His Campaign to Hold Bush Accountable: The Downing Street Memo and More (John Conyers interview), BuzzFlash (June 9, 2005)
  • The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War (Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff, December 2005)
  • A Motion for Censure Congressman John Conyers, Jr., The Nation (December 22, 2005)
  • Q & A with Conyers Guernica Magazine, May 22, 2006
  • House chair warns White House to comply with subpoenas, November 5, 2007
  • Congressman John Conyers, Jr. official U.S. House site
  • John Conyers Jr for Congress
  • Global Family Day movement co-founded by John Conyers and Linda Grover
  • John Conyers at DMOZ

External links

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ and
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Also see Wikisource transcription of Nixon's enemies list
  18. ^ H.R. 676
  19. ^
  20. ^ Tony Allen-Mills and Tom Pattinson, "Blair faces US probe over secret Iraq invasion plan" The Times, May 22, 2005.
  21. ^
  22. ^ The DRA One Year Later: Dems Waiting for Outcome of Legal Challenges to Law That Stiffens Medicaid Transfer Penalties from, February 10, 2007
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Conyers accepts responsibility for possible ethics violations
  26. ^ [1] Archived February 12, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ Prosecutors: Monica Conyers must stay at Camp Cupcake Retrieved 2011-10-28
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ a b c Elliott, Justin (December 16, 2010) Top Dem sticks up for WikiLeaks,
  43. ^ "Ukraine's Neo-Nazis Won't Get U.S. Money". Bloomberg. 12 June 2015.
  44. ^ "U.S. House Passes 3 Amendments By Rep. Conyers To Defense Spending Bill To Protect Civilians From Dangers Of Arming and Training Foreign Forces". Press Releases. 11 June 2015.
  45. ^ NAACP Spingarn Medal
  46. ^ H.R. 4279, Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007


See also

In 2007 he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.[45]

He appeared in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 discussing the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, stating that members of Congress "don't read most of the bills." Conyers frequently posts at Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. Since May 2005, he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post and his own blog.

Conyers is married to Monica Conyers. Monica Conyers filed for divorce from her husband citing a "breakdown" in the marriage in September 2015.

Personal life

Electoral history

Caucus membership

Committee assignments

Conyers and his Republican colleague Ted Yoho offered bipartisan amendments to block the U.S. military training of Ukraine's Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard. Some members of the battalion are openly white supremacists.[43] Conyers stated, "If there’s one simple lesson we can take away from US involvement in conflicts overseas, it’s this: Beware of unintended consequences. As was made vividly clear with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion decades ago, overzealous military assistance or the hyper-weaponization of conflicts can have destabilizing consequences and ultimately undercut our own national interests."[44]

Criticism of American foreign policy

Conyers's statement was "in marked contrast to the repeated calls from other members of Congress and Obama administration officials to prosecute (or kill) WikiLeaks head Julian Assange immediately."[42]

"As an initial matter, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks is very unpopular right now. Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive. But being unpopular is not a crime, and publishing offensive information is not either. And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists, and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable. Indeed, when everyone in this town is joined together calling for someone’s head, that is it a pretty strong sign we need to slow down and take a closer look.... [L]et us not be hasty, and let us not legislate in a climate of fear or prejudice. For, in such an atmosphere, it is our constitutional freedoms and our cherished civil rights that are the first to be sacrificed in the false service of our national security."[42]

At a December 16, 2010 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the subject of "the Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Issues Raised by WikiLeaks,"[41] Conyers "argue[d] strongly against prosecuting WikiLeaks in haste—or at all."[42] He strongly defended the whistleblowing organization, saying:


Conyers was one of the first three U.S. Congress members to condemn the allegations, joining André Carson (D-IN) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).

In October, Conyers responded to allegations from four Republican Congress Members, in the wake of the launch of the book Muslim Mafia, that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sought to plant Muslim "spies" in Capitol Hill. He strongly opposed the accusations, saying:

Response to accusations regarding American Muslim spies

On June 16, 2009, the United States Attorney's Office said that two Synagro Technologies representatives had named Monica Conyers as the recipient of bribes from the company totaling more than $6,000, paid to influence passage of a contract with the City of Detroit.[33][34] The information was gathered during an FBI investigation into political corruption in the city.[35] She was given a pre-indictment letter, and offered a plea bargain deal in the case.[33] On June 26, 2009, she was charged with conspiring to commit bribery. She pleaded guilty.[36] On March 10, 2010, she was sentenced to 37 months in prison, and also received two years of supervised probation.[37] She ended up serving just over 27 months at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp[38] and was released from federal custody officially on May 16, 2013.[39]

Bribery conviction of wife, Monica Conyers

[32], to read a health care bill before voting on it.Indiana of Mike Pence, 93 representatives signed a pledge, started by House In the [31]

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