Rep. John Dingell Dies

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving House member at his retirement in 2014 and a long-time supporter of local broadcasting, has died. He was 92. 

He was first elected to the House in 1955, but had been a page in 1937. His father was also a member of Congress.

The President said Friday that flags at federal buildings will be flown at half-staff "as a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service of former Representative John David Dingell, Jr., of Michigan -- the longest-serving Member of Congress in our Nation's history..."

The President also tweeted last Friday:


Dingell's wife, Debbie, who succeeded him in Congress, had been unable to attend the State of the Union address Tuesday (Feb. 5), returning to Michigan to be with her husband, who had entered hospice.

Her office tweeted out the news:


John Dingell was famous in the House for his "Dingellgrams" (a request for info from an agency), and for asking questions in hearings to which he wanted only yes or no answers, though usually he wound up getting "yes, but..." or "no, but..." answers of somewhat greater length.

He was one of broadcasters' most stalwart defenders in Congress. He pushed to ensure broadcasters were treated fairly in the first DTV transition in 2009 and what would be the second one—the TV station repack—following the incentive auction.

Tributes began pouring in as the news spread around Washington Thursday night.

“The U.S. House of Representatives and the nation lost one of its most faithful servants," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), himself a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman. "John Dingell, the Dean, was a giant in Congress for decades – a true man of the House. He loved this institution; he loved the Energy and Commerce Committee. My thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Debbie, as well as the entire Dingell family, friends, and all of his incredibly loyal staff. The Dean left a mark on all of us; his was a life well lived. Rest In Peace, John.”

“John Dingell dedicated his life in service to the American people," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith, who also served in Congress. "He was a patriot who enlisted in the Army during World War II. He served 59 years in the House of Representatives, leaving an indelible footprint on industries as diverse as communications, energy, and public health. Broadcasters were honored to call Chairman Dingell a friend, and we will never forget his tenacity, good humor and belief in the benefits of free and local radio and television. NAB joins the Dingell family in mourning the loss of this extraordinary American legend.”

“We join with the nation in mourning the passing of Rep. John Dingell, a dear friend who will be remembered as one of America’s greatest public servants," said Michael Powell, president, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "A World War II veteran and the longest-serving member of Congress, Rep. Dingell dedicated his entire life to serving our country and did so with dignity, honor and grace. Throughout his tenure on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Dingell was passionate and direct, but always fair and a man of his word. We will miss Rep. Dingell but his outsized legacy will remain for decades to come.”“All of us at the American Cable Association mourn the passing of Chairman John Dingell, the ‘Man of the House,’ leader and legislative champion," said American Cable Association President Matt Polka. "His influence on communications policy in our country was great as he encouraged new technologies and deployment but always with an eye on what’s best for the consumer. Chairman Dingell made us better. You knew he would be up on the issues, sharp and prepared, and that meant you better be too. He was also a man of history as a witness to and participant with many of the greatest leaders of our country. We will miss his leadership to get things done, his wit, and his commitment to the House, his colleagues and our country. It was an honor for us to have known John Dingell.”

“This country, this institution and this Committee lost a giant tonight," said Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.). "Chairman John Dingell had a deep love and respect for the House and for the Committee on Energy and Commerce.  He fought to ensure the Committee maintained its broad jurisdiction, had deliberative debates and followed regular order. He was a mentor of mine from my first days in Congress.

“Chairman Dingell was feared by both Democratic and Republican administrations for his relentless oversight and his repeated written demands for answers, commonly referred to as ‘Dingellgrams.’ No administration official or corporate executive wanted to be on the other end of a Dingellgram.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee Room is rightfully named after Chairman John Dingell, who Chaired this Committee for 16 years and served as the top Democrat for 28 remarkable years.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Debbie, the Dingell family, and the Energy and Commerce Committee family as we collectively mourn the loss of our Chairman.” 

"John Dingell was a political force, legislative titan, and all around powerhouse," said Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.). "He dedicated his life to this country and served our nation with dignity, integrity, and fortitude.  He was the definition of a great American leader.  Our nation is better today because of his fierce advocacy to protect our environment and improve and increase access to health care. There will never be another public servant as influential as the Dean of the House.  As the longest-serving Member of Congress, his legislative legacy is unmatched and unparalleled and his passing will leave a deep void in this country.  My condolences to Rep. Debbie Dingell and their family, friends, and the residents of Michigan that he fought everyday in his illustrious career to proudly represent.”

“America’s Public Television Stations mourn the passing of Congressman John Dingell, whose service in the House of Representatives for almost 60 years set a standard of public service that will be difficult to match," said Patrick Butler, president and CEO of APTS. “I recall many meetings with Chairman Dingell over the years, in his office adorned with a photograph of Earth and a caption below it saying, ‘Jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.’

Dingell had been chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and was remembered fondly by legislators there during a hearing on net neutrality Thursday (Feb. 7) after Debbie Dingell had signaled the end might be near, including one who also remembered being shown the globe by Dingell when asked what the committee's jurisdiction was.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, paused during the network neutrality hearing to send his thoughts and prayers to Rep. Debbie Dingell, which was followed by tributes and remembrances from both sides of the aisle.

“It’s impossible to overstate the impact that John Dingell had on Congress and this country," said Doyle following John Dingell's death. "He was an influential force behind landmark legislation on civil rights, clean water, clean air, health care, and consumer protection – and his efforts to hold the Executive Branch accountable were legendary. History has shown that he was on the right side of an issue more often than not. We live in a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable country as a result of his leadership."

“Marcia and I extend our deepest sympathies to Debbie and all the Dingell family on the passing of John," said Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee. "John epitomized true public service in always placing the people of Michigan before himself. He was passionate in all that he did, and he has left a lasting legacy on the United States House of Representatives. John will be sorely missed.”

“Today, with the passing of John Dingell, America lost a great champion of the people and a lion of modern day American politics," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). "A veteran of WWII and the longest-serving Member of Congress in our nation’s history, Dingell dedicated his life to improving the lives of others. During his 60 years in Congress Dingell fought for, crafted or shaped, numerous laws that we take for granted now, including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and key environmental laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act."

“John Dingell was the Dean, a deal maker and a digital sensation whose legendary whit warmed American’s hearts on Twitter," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS and former member of Congress.“It was an honor to serve with him on the Energy & Commerce Committee, having a front row seat to history, as 'The Chairman' masterfully crafted bipartisan policies that have improved the lives of all Americans. Including the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, which gave rise to the digital revolution, and created new communication tools like Twitter where Mr. Dingell was able to continue his public influence after leaving Congress. "

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.