KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Flags were at half-staff at the White House on Friday night in honor of former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who died Thursday at the age of 92.
Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn, was the longest serving congressman in United States history. He worked with presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. He was a part of great change in the American landscape and made a lot of friends. One of those was U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican.
"I had the opportunity to spend a little time with him on the phone earlier this week," Upton said. "Just, you know, a real legend here in the Congress, in terms of what he got done."
Upton looked at Dingell as a mentor. Even though the two are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, Upton said he admired his friend's willingness to embrace bipartisanship, and get things done, which is something Upton said the country needs.
"And I'm hoping that we can maybe turn the page, and learning that from John was certainly a lesson that I picked up early," Upton said.
Dingell replaced his father in Congress in 1955. He was reelected 29 times, representing Michigan's 12th Congressional District, until his wife Debbie Dingle replaced him in 2015.
"He was doing the things that the folks in his district felt were important. In many ways, he embodied what I think is sort of the traditional blue-collar aspect of Democratic party politics," said Western Michigan University Political Science Professor John Clark.
Clark said Dingell's constituents liked him for his hardworking personality, and that he fought for the auto industry.
Perhaps his most lasting influence was serving as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
"He had considerable power, accumulated considerable power in Washington D.C., and stayed true to his Michigan roots, and was true to his district during that time," Clark said.
Dingell was well respected, even by those with different opinions.
"But when we disagreed we always had respect for each other, not only in the beginning, but certainly at the end," Upton said.