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Obituary Shows How Much Of Conyers’ Early ‘Radical’ Positions Have Become Mainstream In Democratic Politics

Obituary Shows How Much Of Conyers’ Early ‘Radical’ Positions Have Become Mainstream In Democratic Politics

John Conyers Jr.
Rep. John Conyers died Sunday, Oct. 27 in his sleep. His obituary shows he was ahead of his time with policies. In this photo the Michigan Democrat addresses supporters during the Michigan Democratic election night party at the MGM Grand Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Before Bernie Sanders, before Elizabeth Warren, there was John James Conyers Jr. On Oct. 27, 2019, the civil rights icon, founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and longest-tenured Black U.S. Representative died in his sleep, the New York Times reported. He was 90.

Outspoken and fearless, Conyers was dedicated to improving the lives of Americans, particularly Black people. Now many of the positions the Detroit Democrat was once called “radical” for have become commonplace among members of his party.

During a historical career that spanned 53 years, Conyers fought to implement progressive policies. First elected in 1964, Conyers was the only representative to be involved in the impeachment hearings of both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Over the decades, the attorney and army veteran was a dominant and diligent voice for Black people. Known for his liberal policies, he fought for economic and judicial justice and equality.

There is a need for “ … justice in the United States where too often we see people of color and people who are poor still being left behind and ignored,” Conyers once said.


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Beginning four days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Conyers worked tirelessly for over 15 years to get his birthday designated a national holiday. He introduced the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prohibit discrimination against Black people at the polls, hired Rosa Parks when she couldn’t find employment, and tried to calm and rehabilitate Detroit, during and after the infamous 12th Street Riot.

“In Detroit you’ve got high unemployment, a poverty rate of at least 30 percent, schools not in great shape, high illiteracy, poor families not safe from crime, without health insurance, problems with housing,” Conyers told The Associated Press in 2004. “You can’t fix one problem by itself — they’re all connected.”

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Conyers championed government-operated, single-payer health insurance, fought against police brutality, advocated to ban private ownership of guns, and was the original author of the bill that is now H.R. 40 to study reparations for slavery, among other policies.

Sound familiar? In an age of unaffordable healthcare, numerous mass shootings, Black Lives Matter, ADOS, a debt crisis and slew of other issues, peers and successors of Conyers’ alike have adopted his positions.

From presidential candidates like Sanders, Warren, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke to members of the party at-large, many Democrats are calling for gun control, police accountability, reparations and affordable health care.

Despite stepping down from his office in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations, Conyers denied any wrongdoing and was confident his legacy was cemented in history. “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way … This, too, shall pass,” Conyers said.

The statement was almost prophetic. While, the sunset of Conyers’ career was riddled with controversy, the sunset of his life has stirred an outpouring of love, respect and condolences for the impact he made.

He is survived by his wife Monica Conyers and their sons John James Conyers III and Carl Edward Conyers.

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