A Detroit 90th birthday bash for retired Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Detroit) held on May 18 at his brother Nathan’s house drew over 300 friends, Congress and Detroit VIP’s, and well-wishers. The party, organized by wife Monica, Nate, and sons John III and Carl, brought Detroit area congressional representatives Brenda Lawrence, Debbie Dingell, and Rashida Tlaib, great-nephew former State Sen Ian Conyers, and many Detroit political officials including Council President Brenda Jones. An array of Conyers’ former Washington and Detroit top staffers also joined the celebration.
Conyers said in an interview at the event:
· Among his many achievements, he’s “most proud” of his Martin Luther King Birthday Holiday bill becoming law. He was asked, “Did you think it would grow into this big an event, a national day of service?” He responded, “Yes. At first there was a small group of people with me. A larger group said it “would never happen. Then other people joined. More introduced their own. Support grew. After the assassination, what he had done resounded with people.” Conyers mentioned he felt the “most association” with King among American leaders, marched with him, went to his home, was endorsed by him for Congress.
· He suggests “not to impeach” Trump now but keep investigating. “The longer he stays in, the more mistakes he’ll make.” He added, “the election will be a tough race. If we’re not careful he’ll win again.”
· He’s “all in” supporting Joe Biden’s run for President. Biden was a close colleague who chaired the Senate version of Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee and came to Conyers’ Hill portrait unveiling in Washington. Conyers said Saturday: “He has a good chance, better than Barack had at this point.” Conyers also supported Obama very early on.
· He’s happy his Reparations bill has become a major issue in the presidential campaign. Cong. Brenda Lawrence told him at the event, “It’s the talk of the country.” Conyers said, “It’s getting traction because it makes sense.” He joked, “Most of my stuff makes sense but it doesn’t always help it right away.”
· How do you stop voter suppression? “It’s a never-ending activity. With all the people that don’t support minority rights, we always have to stay at it, maintain enthusiasm, and raise money to do it.”
· On the Medicare-for-All movement where he enlisted a majority of House Democrats, but now weakening a bit under political arguments and industry lobbying since he’s left? Conyers said, “I still feel good about it, it’s moving, it takes time.”
· His resolution that passed in the House for no Iran war without congressional approval is “relevant especially now.”
· He noted that “the first person I hired when I was elected was Rosa Parks.”
· He said his health is good: “There’s not a thing wrong with me, no complaints.” He said he stays “active with events, there are so many who invite and welcome me. I’m privileged.” He said he’s been with many groups “from the beginning.” He’s thinking he’ll “write a book.”
· He offered positive words about his successors, Cong. Talib in Detroit and, at the Judiciary Committee in Washington, Jerold Nadler (D-NY). Talib presented Conyers with a flower bouquet. He said that despite some criticism of her rhetoric, people need to know she “means well.” He said that Nadler is carrying a “good program, well organized” on constitutional issues concerning Trump. Top Judiciary Counsel Perry Apelbaum came from Washington with a resolution congratulating Conyers signed by all Democratic Judiciary congressional members. Also at the party were former office Chief of Staff Ray Plowden and former Judiciary counsel Julian Epstein (and spokesman Bob Weiner, author of this article).
Congresswoman Dingell was seen crying at the event and was asked why. Perhaps summarizing the feelings of many, she said, “I’m just missing him. Lots of great memories of the ups and downs of life.”
Weiner is former communications director for Cong Conyers, a former Clinton and Bush White House spokesman, and former senior aide to Cong. Charles Rangel, Claude Pepper, Ed Koch, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. He now heads a group recruiting young journalists to write for top papers and contributes regularly to the Chronicle.