The Honorable John Dingell, Jr.
"Well, I think the Congress is one of the greatest educational institutions in the world. And a bunch of kids had the chance to participate in that. If they study history, and read—and of course, I was always a tremendous reader—they could learn. And they could add to the learning that they got by reading, by watching, by seeing and listening to debates and reading the papers. So, it made a remarkably educated bunch of Americans. And not only did it do that, but it gave them an understanding and an appreciation of the ideals and why and how the country was created. . . . And it had a life and a meaning to it that you don’t see if you’re just taking this in a course. And the teachers of government, they do their best to put it into understandable ways, and to describe it as it should be described, about what is going on when this happens. How does a bill move from the hopper, to the committee, to the floor, to the President’s desk? But there you’d actually see it work, and you’d get a feeling of what is happening here, something that you don’t get out of looking at a book.”
— The Honorable John Dingell, Jr., February 3, 2012
This interview with Representative John Dingell, recorded on February 3, 2012, focuses on his recollections as a House Page. In addition to assessing the value of Page program to the institution, he recalls his appointment as a Page, various duties on the House Floor, and education at the Capitol Page School. Dingell shares his memories of witnessing President Franklin Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941, Montana Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin’s vote against war, and his own role in allowing a radio reporter to broadcast from the House Gallery (in contravention of House rules) part of the debate after Roosevelt’s address. Dingell also recalls prominent Members of the period including: Sam Rayburn of Texas, John McCormack and George Holden Tinkham of Massachusetts, and Louis Rabaut of Michigan. Also included are his reflections on the culture of the House in the World War II era, based on his unique perspective as the child of a Member of Congress and as part of the community of congressional families that lived in Washington, D.C.
John David Dingell, Jr., was born on July 8, 1926, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to John and Grace Bigler Dingell. John, Sr., a newspaperman, also engaged in natural-gas pipeline construction, beef and pork wholesaling, and organizing the Colorado Springs Labor College. In 1932, Dingell, Sr., a stalwart supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a district including the city of Detroit.
John, Jr., served as a House Page and attended the Capitol Page School from 1938 to 1943. In 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served until receiving an honorable discharge in 1946 after World War II. In 1949, he earned a B.S. degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; three years later, he received his J.D. from Georgetown. Dingell briefly worked as a research assistant to U.S. Circuit Court Judge Theodore Levin (uncle of future Michigan Senator Carl Levin and Representative Sander Levin). In 1954, he became the assistant prosecuting attorney of Wayne County, Michigan.
When John Dingell, Sr., passed away in 1955, John, Jr., won the special election to succeed his father in the House on December 13, 1955. Though decennial reapportionment reshaped the borders of his district over time, Dingell was re-elected to office for an historic 29 additional terms. During his House career, Dingell rose to the powerful chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee (97th–103rd Congresses and 110th Congress; 1981–1995 and 2007–2009). As such, he played a highly influential role in legislation ranging from the automobile industry and energy policy, to the environment and health care. When Dingell retired at the end of the 113th Congress (2013–2015), he held the record as the longest serving Member in congressional history—with a total of 21,572 days in office—approximately 58.9 years (surpassing Jamie Whitten of Mississippi’s mark for House service in February 2009 and Robert Byrd of West Virginia’s record for total combined service in the House and Senate in June 2013).
Life of a Page
Recollection of "enriching" experiences as a House Page.
Description of the various duties of a Page.
Experiencing Government Firsthand
Description of the Page program as a unique educational opportunity.
Heroes and Inspiration: Part One
Memories of Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts.
Heroes and Inspiration: Part Two
Recollections of Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas and other role models.
Getting to Know Each Other
Recollections of the relationships built between Members of Congress.
"Looking After Your People"
Memories of Representative John Dingell, Sr., of Michigan campaigning in his district.
Singing in the Well
Memories of singing in the House Chamber with Representative Louis Rabaut of Michigan.
Reaction to the Attack
Recollections of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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