Sunday 17 November 2019

Longest-serving black member of US congress John Conyers dies aged 90

He was a senior figure in the US civil rights movement.

John Conyers (AP)
John Conyers (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

John Conyers, the longest-serving black member of US congress and founder of the Black Caucus, has died at the age of 90.

Detroit police said the former congressman died on Sunday at his home in the city of what appeared to be natural causes.

The Michigan Democrat’s resolutely liberal stance on civil rights and civil liberties made him a political institution.

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John Conyers greets the Rev Jesse Jackson at a postal workers’ rally in 2010 (AP)

He also fought for 15 years to get the Rev Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday designated as a national holiday in America.

A jazz aficionado from an early age, Mr Conyers became one of only six black members of the US house of representatives when he narrowly won his first election in 1964.

But his legacy was smeared in 2017 following allegations that he had sexually harassed female staff.

He denied the allegations but eventually stepped down, citing health reasons, saying his legacy could not be diminished.

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Mr Conyers was in US congress for more than 50 years (AP)

Human rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson hailed the work of Mr Conyers over the federal holiday honouring Dr King.

Mr Jackson said even some of Mr Conyers’ allies doubted that he could persuade US congress to create the public holiday.

He said Mr Conyers’ death and the recent passing of fellow representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore had been “real painful”.

Mr Jackson said “it’s like a hole in the sky”.

Mr Conyers was in US congress for nearly 53 years.

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