U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. announces his retirement amid sexual harassment allegations


He endorses his son for his congressional seat

By Frederick H. Lowe

John Conyers Jr., the longest serving active member of Congress, said on a Detroit radio show Tuesday that “I am retiring today” and that he is endorsing his son John Conyers III to replace “me in Congress.”

The 88-year-old congressman, who represents Michigan’s 13th congressional district, has faced allegations from five women who worked in his offices that he either sexually or verbally harassed them.

Congressman John Conyers Jr. announced he will retire

He spoke by telephone to Mildred Gaddis, host of the Mildred Gaddis Radio Show. Conyers recently checked himself into a Detroit-area hospital to be treated for stress.

Gaddis asked Conyers about due process, which is big issue in the black community because no one has demanded that Sen. Al Franken (D., Minnesota) resign or retire although he also faces multiple sexual harassment allegations.

Conyers gave philosophical answer. He said, “you take these things in stride and you deal with it.”  He did not address the allegations.

In the past, Conyers has denied the allegations but some members of the Democratic Caucus, including Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been pressuring him to resign to preserve his legacy.

Conyers made it clear that he is retiring, not resigning. He was scheduled to run for re-election in 2018.

“I am in the process of putting my retirement plans together,” Conyers told Gaddis. It’s also not clear if Conyers is retiring today or at the end of his term. Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, easily won re-election last year in the heavily Democratic 13th District.

Conyers, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has a major legacy in the black community that included hiring Rosa Parks, whose arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott that broke the back of segregation. After the boycott, neither Parks nor her husband could find work. The story of the bus boycott is told the in book “The Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow.”

Conyers introduced the original Martin Luther King Holiday Act of 1983. After 15 years, the bill would eventually pass into law, making the third Monday of January an official Federal holiday. He has been a major proponent of more than 100 pieces of critical legislation including the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

He has repeatedly called for reparations for blacks and has shared the stage with Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.

Conyers’ retirement announcement comes after he stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

John Conyers III lives in Detroit and Los Angeles and is a partner in Detroit’s only minority-run hedge fund.

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