DETROIT (WXYZ) — One day before thousands bid a final farewell to former Congressman John Conyers Jr., those who worked alongside him for decades gathered for a smaller, more personal celebration.
“We wanted to make sure that we got together as a staff to honor him," said Rinia Shelby-Crooms, a former staff member.
A few dozen people met at Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit to remember their former boss and celebrate his life; it's a place Conyers, a jazz buff, frequented.
“Jazz was No. 1. And you know, in the office we would always have some jazz music on," said former Chief of Staff Ray Plowden.
One day before thousands of people say a final farewell to @RepJohnConyers, those who worked alongside him for decades are gathering for a smaller celebration - at a place that was close to the Congressman's heart: Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit @wxyzdetroit pic.twitter.com/PGdlZrSvLF— Jenn Schanz (@JennSchanzWXYZ) November 4, 2019
Members of the group flew in from all over the country, mostly the D.C. area, to get together before Conyers' formal funeral on Monday. They shared stories and reflected upon the Congressman's greatest legislative and political achievements and challenges.
“I mean he was a giant, but he was also just a man who really believed deeply in public service," said former staff member Danielle Brown.
Pam Walker, who worked for Conyers in the late 1990s into the early 2000s, remembered him during the moments after the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Mr. Conyers quickly went to work on trying to put together a town hall meeting or a press conference because his major concern, that was people would maybe try to racial profile and there would be riots and he wanted to avoid that at all costs," Walker said.
“I hope that his legacy is really a model for future leaders to follow," said former staffer Kimberly Hill Knott.
Among those expected at Monday's funeral service for Congressman Conyers is former President Bill Clinton.