Longtime U.S. Rep. John Dingell to retire - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Longtime U.S. Rep. John Dingell to retire

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Rep. John Dingell announced his retirement Monday during a luncheon in Southgate. Rep. John Dingell announced his retirement Monday during a luncheon in Southgate.
(WJBK) -

Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history and a champion of Detroit's auto industry, has announced his retirement.

The 87-year-old Michigan Democrat made the announcement Monday before a speech to a Detroit-area Chamber of Commerce.

Dingell entered Congress as a 29-year-old back in 1955 and has represented Michigan's 12th District ever since. On June 7, 2013, Dingell became the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history.

"I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district," the 87-year-old Dingell said. "That time has come."

He fueled speculation that his wife, Deborah Dingle, might run for his seat, saying she would have his vote if she does.

Dingell had a front-row seat for the passage of landmark legislation including Medicare, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, all of which he supported.

He also was accused of stalling the Clean Air Act to help auto interests. His hometown, the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, was home to a Ford Motor Co. factory that was once the largest in the world.

One of his proudest moments came in 2010, when he sat next to Obama as the $938 billion health care overhaul was signed into law. Taking up his father's cause, Dingell had introduced a universal health care coverage bill in each of his terms.

For 14 years he chaired the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees industries from banking and energy to health care and the environment. He also led its investigative arm, which produced several high-profile cases.

He often has used his dry wit to amuse his friends and sting opponents. Even when he was in a hospital in 2003 following an operation to open a blocked artery, he maintained his humor.

"I'm happy to inform the Republican leadership that I fully intend to be present to vote against their harmful and shameless tax giveaway package," he said from the hospital.

His critics called him overpowering and intimidating. And the head of a 500-pound wild boar looking at visitors to his Washington office only boosted that reputation, as did the story behind it: Dingell is said to have felled the animal with a pistol as it charged him during a hunting trip in Soviet Georgia.

Yet the avid hunter and sportsman, whose office was decorated with big game trophies, was hard to typecast. He also loved classical music and ballet -- his first date with his wife, Debbie, a prominent Democratic activist whom he affectionately introduced as "the lovely Deborah," was a performance of the American Ballet Theater.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 8, 1926, John David Dingell Jr. grew up in Michigan, where his father was elected to Congress as a "New Deal" Democrat in 1932. After a brief stint in the Army near the end of World War II, the younger Dingell earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Georgetown University.

Following the sudden death of his father in September 1955, Dingell, then a 29-year-old attorney, won a special election to succeed him.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story

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