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What Else Has The Longest-Serving Congressman Outlasted?

Rep. John Dingell will make history on Friday, when he surpasses the late Sen. Robert Byrd's record to become the longest-serving member of Congress.

The Michigan Democrat was first elected to the House of Representatives in December 1955, during the first Eisenhower administration. As of Friday, he's served 57 years, five months and 26 days.

As we looked into what else was happening back in December 1955, we discovered that's also when New York's Tappan Zee Bridge first opened to traffic. Now, crews are beginning work on the early stages of construction of a new bridge to replace it.

That's right. After nearly 60 years, Dingell's term in Congress is still going, while the life span of a major bridge is coming to an end.

So that made us wonder: What else has Dingell outlasted?

Guiding Light's TV Run

Before its cancellation in 2009, the soap opera had been running on the small screen for a little more than 57 years, making it the longest-running television drama in history. (We must note that if you count its radio days, the show ran for a total of 72 years.)

The USS Enterprise

The most recent Navy aircraft carrier named Enterprise was commissioned in 1961. The storied ship played a role during the Cuban missile crisis, and also in the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. In the 1980s, it had a star turn in the movie Top Gun. The ship was retired in 2012, though a new Enterprise is expected.

The Moon Program

In 1961, President Kennedy announced the goal of sending a man to the moon. By then, Dingell had been in Congress for more than half a decade. The president's goal was reached in 1969. Although President Bush announced interest in another moon mission in 2004, those plans were scuttled under the Obama administration. NASA currently has no plans to send anyone to the moon.

Alaska And Hawaii

OK, so he hasn't exactly outlasted them. But Dingell is the only member of Congress who has been serving the Union longer than its two newest states have been around (admitted in 1959).

Dingell talked about his votes to admit Alaska and Hawaii as states on his appearance this week on The Colbert Report, where he also said the thing that's changed the most, in his time in Congress, has been the "loss of collegiality."

Thousands Of Members Of Congress

To break the record, Dingell had to outserve more than 12,000 other members of Congress. According to House historians, 12,099 people have served in Congress since March 4, 1789. Dingell has served with 2,420 other representatives and 488 senators during his time in office, say the House and Senate historical offices, respectively.

For more on Dingell's history-making achievement, listen to Robert Siegel's interview with the congressman from Thursday's All Things Considered.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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