DETROIT -- A number of judges and lawyers honored U.S. Rep. John Conyers in a ceremony Friday, thanking the 85-year-old Detroit Democrat for donating personal papers from his nearly 50 years in Washington to Wayne State University.
The papers, which include his work on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the establishment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, will be held by the Damon J. Keith Collection of African-American Legal History. The Keith Collection is a repository detailing the contributions and achievements of black lawyers, judges and political figures.
"I am the product of so many of you in this room," said Conyers, who added that he was humbled by the recognition. "And I am reflecting only what I think most — if not all of you — would have approved of us doing.
"If this is to mean anything at all, is that we celebrate the struggle. For what? Making democracy work. That's all we're doing."
Conyers was named to the House Judiciary Committee as soon as he arrived in Washington in 1965 and was its ranking Democrat from 1994-2006.
Keith, a U.S. Appeals Court judge, described his longtime friend as a tenacious fighter, especially with his work on the King holiday.
"These papers you are leaving ... are very important for the children to know the struggle that we've had to endure," Keith said. "It hasn't been easy."
Conyers earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Wayne State University and worked as a legislative assistant from 1958-1961 for U.S. Rep. John Dingell. Conyers was elected in 1964 and has held a seat in Congress continuously since taking office in 1965.
He is seeking his 26th term and faces a primary challenge from Horace Sheffield III, a Detroit pastor and activist, in Michigan's 13th Congressional District. If he wins in August and in the November general election, Conyers will become the longest-serving active member of U.S. House when Dingell resigns at the end of the year.