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His hometown, the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, was home to a Ford Motor Co. factory that was once the largest in the world.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly, who served as a legal counsel for Dingell in the 1980s, said he will miss Dingell’s ability “to get things done” at home and in Washington. It is a double blow to Michigan, O’Reilly said, when combined with the impending retirement of Sen. Carl Levin, another powerful and longtime Democrat.

“Our economy is no longer a stand-alone economy like it was when they first came in - it’s now part of a global economy,” O’Reilly said. “Those issues require people with a good knowledge base, a good history and understanding of the issues. We’ve been blessed.”

As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981 to 1994, Dingell made the panel one of the most aggressive and wide-ranging in Congress. He became known for sharply worded investigative letters dubbed “Dingell-grams” sent to agencies.

Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who served on Dingell’s staff before he was elected to Congress in 1964, will become the new dean next year if he wins re-election.

If Dingell has a reputation for being hard-nosed, he also maintains the old congressional tradition of cordiality with colleagues, friend and foe. He lamented during his speech Monday that Congress has grown deeply “rancorous” and “divided,” and has become “a disappointment” to him.

That is not why he is leaving, he added, but it is time to “enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet.”

Born in Colorado Springs, Colo., Dingell grew up in Michigan, where his father was elected to Congress as a “New Deal” Democrat in 1932. After a brief stint in the Army near the end of World War II, the younger Dingell earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Georgetown University.

Following the sudden death of his father in 1955, Dingell, then a 29-year-old attorney, won a special election to succeed him.

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Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Henry C. Jackson in Washington contributed to this report. Eggert reported from Lansing.