Goodbye to 'The Dean' - thousands attend John Dingell visitation

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It's hard to say good-bye to a man who has meant so much to this country.
But Monday visitation took place for the longest serving congressman in U.S. history John Dingell. Thousands of people came to pay their respects -- and his widow Debbie Dingell was there to greet nearly all of them.

"Every time I would see him I would ask him, 'How are you doing? How are you feeling? He'd say, 'I'm alive. thank god for this life. I'm thankful for good friends like you,'" said Sami Khaldi of the Dearborn Democratic Club.

It's those memories that will sustain those who knew, worked with and loved John Dingell.

Thousands gathered in Dearborn to comfort his wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and pay their respects to America's longest serving congressman.

He was the dean of the house. He witnessed history and helped shape it. His legacy, a testament to the spirit of bi-partisanship and civility.

"He felt you could disagree without being disagreeable and that's the key," said former Gov. Jim Blanchard.

Dingell was a champion of universal healthcare before it became popular. He was ahead of his time on environmental issues and his leveraging of social media-- was nothing short of masterful.

FOX 2: "To say that the late congressman had Twitter fingers would not be a dis, it would be a huge compliment."

"Yeah, it would be a compliment and a little bit of an understatement," said Adam Winnie, a former staffer. "Because it's hard to quantify how successful he was on that platform for a man of his age."

Much has and should be said about all of that, as should his vote on the Civil Rights act of 1964 which Dingell himself called the most important vote he would ever cast.

"And for a man in those days, a Democrat in those days, who dared to stand with black people, with Martin Luther King Jr. and say, 'I'm going to support this legislation' and risk backlash for it. I mean they burned a cross in front of his lawn," said Bankole Thompson, Detroit News columnist. 

Former governor Jim Blanchard remembers that period and that vote, well.

"In 1964, he had a primary against another member of Congress from the Detroit area who was opposed to the Civil Rights Bill and was counting on white backlash on that," Blanchard said. "And John stood tall."

"And I think it will go down in history as one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed in congress," said Bankole Thompson. "Because it's the legislation that talked about the lives of black people who were brought as slaves to this country against their own will, and that legislation basically said, we will in fact respect their rights."

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. from Dearborn Divine Child and will be broadcast on FOX 2 and on