Dingell funeral

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., center, consoles former Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., as Macomb County executive Mark Hackel, right, looks on at the casket of her husband and former Rep. John Dingell, lying in repose in Dearborn, Mich., Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. . (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Public Honors Late John Dingell, Longest-Serving Congressman

February 11, 2019 - 1:49 pm

DEARBORN (WWJ/AP) - Hundreds of John Dingell's former constituents lined up Monday in Dearborn to pay their respects to the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, passing his flag-covered coffin and offering condolences to his wife and family.

Dingell's casket was in a ballroom at the at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. Outside the room, mourners viewed oversized photos of his life and 59-year career in Congress. He died last week at age 92, four years after retiring from the House.

WWJ's Jon Hewett reported it was about a 45-minute wait to pay respects, those in line including people who knew Dingell for decades and many who'd never met him.

Among the former was Michigan Senator Gary Peters, who described Dingell as his mentor.

What was so special about the longtime congressman?

"There's no question John Dingell was a tough guy. He got his way often by just force of personality --- but he also got people together in the end," Peters said. "But I think the reason he was able to bring folks together, and they could fight on the floor of the House of Representitives and then go out and have a beer later or go out to a duck stand and go hunting, was that he also believed in building relationships with other members, which is absolutely critical."

"It's become, unfortunately, more difficult to do that in today's age when members fly into Washington and they fly back out of Washington," the senator added. "You know, John Dingell was there during the age when members got to know each other beyond just politics, and got to know each other personally. Their spouses got to know each other, their families got to know each other, and that is something we lack today in Washington."

The visitation was the first of many public events this week. Funeral Masses will be held Tuesday in Dearborn and Thursday in Washington. A motorcade with Dingell's casket will pass the U.S. Capitol, where the Michigan Democrat held power for years as a House committee chairman. He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dingell succeeded his father in Congress in 1955, and his wife was elected to his seat in 2014. Rep. Debbie Dingell greeted the public after some private moments near the casket with former Rep. Candice Miller and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan will speak at the Tuesday service. Former President Bill Clinton and former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio will speak at the Washington service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.