Dubbed “Big John” for his imposing 6-foot-3 frame and sometimes intimidating manner, former Rep. John Dingell bolstered that reputation with the head of a 500-pound wild boar that greeted visitors to his Washington office. The story behind it also helped: The Michigan Democrat is said to have felled the animal with a pistol as it charged him during a hunting trip in Soviet Georgia.
Yet the congressman — whose nearly six decades in the U.S. House made him the longest serving member of Congress in American history — was hard to typecast. An avid sportsman and hunter, he loved classical music and ballet. His first date with his wife, Debbie, whom he affectionately introduced as “the lovely Deborah,” was a performance of the American Ballet Theater.
He mastered legislative deal-making, but was fiercely protective of the auto industry back home in Detroit and a longtime supporter of universal health care. Dingell also was a dogged pursuer of government waste and fraud, helping take down two top presidential aides while chairman of a powerful investigative panel.