Path to Power
Conyers was born in Detroit, Mich., on May 16, 1929, to John Conyers Sr. and Lucille Simpson and is one of five children. Conyers grew up attending union meetings with his father, who was active in Detroit's labor movement. "He always liked the law and protest speaking, and so I kind of came by that pretty easily," Conyers said.
Conyers' lifelong love affair with jazz music began when he was just a boy, when he would visit Detroit's Palace Theater to take in the sounds of artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. Inspired by his musical heroes, Conyers learned to play the cornet, but as an adult he would refer to himself as a "proud, but failed, musician." Conyers sponsored a House resolution that passed in 1987 declaring jazz a "rare and valuable American national treasure."
Conyers began his political career in the liberal climate of the 1960s, and he has maintained that era's movement mentality during his congressional career. He is known for championing the legislative causes of minorities and the poor, and in recent years he has fought for expanded hate crime protections and sought a federal ban on racial profiling by the police.
Many observers consider Conyers to be one of the most liberal members of the House, and he lived up to that reputation in the 110th Congress, voting with his party 97 percent of the time.
Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). He continues to serve in the caucus, along with fellow founding member, Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) are also members and friends.