The military planes transporting a number of lawmakers to former Congressman John Dingell’s funeral in Detroit had to turn around on Tuesday due to bad weather in Michigan.
The funeral for Dingell, the longest-serving member in the history of Congress who died Thursday at 92, featured numerous empty seats in the Detroit church, with several sources telling Fox News the scene was heartbreaking.
The former congressman is survived by his wife, Debbie, who currently holds his House seat and four children. A cause of death was not immediately known.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan Congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress,” the congresswoman said in a statement following Dingell’s death.
“Congressman Dingell died peacefully today at his home in Dearborn, surrounded by his wife Deborah. He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth.”
The Michigan Democrat was considered an authority on Congressional procedures, akin to the legendary Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV. Dingell was best known for his legislative skills, deep reverence for history and stinging wit.
Nicknamed “The Truck” during his longtime tenure as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the congressman from Detroit fueled the passage of many landmark measures, including health care reform, energy regulations and telecommunications expansion.
By the time Dingell hit the record for the longest tenure in the House in February 2009, he was the Democrats’ go-to colleague for underlining a moment’s historical significance. Dingell’s presence at a press conference or in the chamber for a speech would immediately give an event a more serious tone.
“He will be remembered as one of the most influential members of Congress not to have served as president,” said former Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who served on the Energy and Commerce Committee with Dingell for two decades.
Fox News Mike Emanuel and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.