The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Board of Directors named Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. the 92nd recipient of the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor. Conyers will receive the award during the 98th NAACP National Convention in Detroit, Mich. July 12 at the annual Spingarn Dinner.
"John Conyers' record of service is unparalleled and speaks volumes," said NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond. "He has been an extraordinary advocate and consistent supporter of civil rights and civil liberties and a major ally of the NAACP's agenda. He has suffered and survived many attacks from extremists, but has always stood strong in the cause of equality for all Americans. He is one of the legislative giants of our time."
Conyers, chosen chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee in January, has served longer in Congress than any other African-American. He has been reelected 20 times, never facing serious opposition. He is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and is considered the dean of the group. Formed in 1969, the CBC was founded to strengthen African-American lawmakers' ability to address the legislative concerns of Black and minority citizens.
After serving in the National Guard and U.S, Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War, Conyers earned degrees from Wayne State University.
In 40-plus years in Congress, his major accomplishments include the Violence Against Women Act of 1994; the Motor Voter Bill of 1993; the Martin Luther King Holiday Act of 1983; the Jazz Preservation Act of 1987.
Specifically, his Judicary Committee work involves advancing civil liberties, ensuring equal protection and access to voting and combating violence against women.
Following the 2000 presidential elections, Rep. Conyers co-authored comprehensive election reform legislation to end discriminatory practices. Enacted in 2002, the bill adavances civil rights and protects voting rights by establishing federal minimum voting rights standards for election machines and requiring voting sites be made accessible to those with disabilities.
Rep. Conyers intervened to prevent abuse of women in Michigan prisons. A series of hearings and his contact with the U.S Department of Justice led to the creation of a Michigan policy that restricts male correctional officers from guarding women held in private quarters.
In a world dominated by ethnic conflict and terrorism, Conyers is committed to promoting peace. He has been highly vocal and worked diligently to turn back the war effort in Iraq. Last August, Rep. Conyers released the final draft of his report The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retributions and Cover-ups in the Iraq War, an edited collection of information intending to serve as evidence that the Bush Administration altered intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
For more than 30 years he has also pushed for health care system reform. He is founder and chair of the Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force, composed of a 45 member caucus whose mission it is to pass legislation that would guarantee all Americans access to affordable, comprehensive quality health care.
Conyers is a recipient of numerous awards for leadership including the NAACP National Voter Fund Pioneer Award, the Frederick Douglass Men of Strength Award, the CBC Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Council on American-Islamic Relations Leadership Award for Civil Rights, the Justice for All Disability Rights Awards from the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Black Broadcasters Alliance Golden Mike, and the International Jazz Hall of Fame National Jazz Heritage Award.
The Spingarn Award, first presented in 1915 by NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn, is designed to highlight distinguished merit and achievement among African Americans. Previous Spingarn winners include: baseball hall of famer Henry "Hank" Aaron, Maya Angelou, William H. Cosby, Jr., Edward "Duke" Ellington, Earl G. Graves, Sr., author Alex Haley, Vernon Jordan, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., artist Jacob Lawrence, Rosa Parks, General Colin Powell, opera singer Leontyne Price, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Chairman Emeritus, the NAACP Board of Directors and media personality Oprah Winfrey.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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