Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois formally announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 16th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The former Black Panther who first won election in 1992 said in a speech at a Chicago church that he isn’t retiring from public service.
“I will remain on the front lines,” he said.
“I don’t want my grandchildren … to know me from a television news clip or something they read in a newspaper,” Rush, 75, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I want them to know me on an intimate level, know something about me, and I want to know something about them,” he added. “I don’t want to be a historical figure to my grandchildren.”
Rush first took office in 1993. His district represents large portions of Chicago’s South Side, as well as some south and southwest suburbs.
Rush was a founding member and former chairman of the Illinois Black Panthers and a prominent civil rights activist. Ten years ago, he took to the House floor in a hoodie to demand justice for murdered Black Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
He is also a preacher and the only person to beat Barack Obama in an election — the 2000 Democratic primary for Illinois’ 1st District.
He is expected to serve out the rest of his term in 2022 until a new representative is sworn in in 2023.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly, chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, reflected on his devotion to civil rights, saying he cared deeply about the progress of the African American population, jobs and justice.
“Definitely an activist when it comes to gun violence prevention, which is something near and dear to my heart, you know, so I think he’ll leave many things for people to really think about, what he’s contributed to as the congressman for the 1st district,” she said.
Rush’s seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands after the November election. He is the 24th House Democrat to announce they would not be seeking re-election after the current term. Eight of those are seeking other elected positions either locally or nationally.
So far, 12 House Republicans have announced they are also not seeking another two-year term.