Rep. Bobby Rush to Retire After Three Decades in Congress

January 4, 2022 by Dan McCue
Rep. Bobby Rush to Retire After Three Decades in Congress
Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., is "returning home" after 30 years in Congress.

CHICAGO — Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., announced Tuesday that after three decades in Congress he will not be seeking re-election to a 16th term in 2022. 

Rush revealed his plans at a news conference at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago.

The Chicago church was the site of the 1955 funeral of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old whose brutal torture and murder in Mississippi sparked the civil rights movement.

Rush, who is 75 and the survivor of a rare form of salivary gland cancer, refused to call his announcement a retirement, but instead said he was merely informing his constituents of his plans for the future.

He said once he finishes out his current term, he will continue to serve the public as an activist, community organizer and preacher.

“After nearly three decades in Congress, I have been reassigned,” Rush said. “Let me make it clear that I am not retiring, I am returning. I’m returning home, returning to my church, returning to my family and grandchildren — but my calling to a life of service is stronger than ever. 

“I am expanding my tent beyond the guardrails of Congress, and I can see clearly that the next step for my continued service stems from my transformational embrace by the Holy Spirit,” he continued. “I’m returning to my passion — that is, to share the special power of love that transforms hearts and minds.”

In an interview that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rush also revealed a more personal reason for sitting out a 2022 campaign — his desire to spend more time with his family, particularly his grandchildren.

“I don’t want my grandchildren . . . to know me from a television news clip or something they read in a newspaper,” Rush said in article. 

“I want them to know me on an intimate level, know something about me, and I want to know something about them. I don’t want to be a historical figure to my grandchildren,” he added.

Rush helped found the Illinois Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and is a longtime civil rights activist. His activities led to his first brush with death, following the killing of Fred Hampton, a Black Panther activist targeted by an FBI informant and shot by police in Chicago in 1969.

“By all rights, I should have been murdered on Dec. 5, 1969, the day after the police assassinated Fred Hampton,” Rush said. “They came for me the next day, shot down my door, but — by the grace of God — my family and I were not home. Decades later, my life was spared again in my fight against cancer. 

“My faith tells me that there’s a reason I’m still here. … I am not leaving the battlefield. I am going to be an activist as long as I’m here in the land of the living, and I will be making my voice heard in the public realm — from the pulpit, in the community, and in the halls of power,” he added.

Rush first won election to Congress in 1992, and he famously withstood a 2000 primary challenge from a young upstart politician and community organizer named Barack Obama. Obama, of course, later won a U.S. Senate seat and two terms as president, but Rush remains the only person ever to best him in an electoral contest. 

Rush received a master’s degree in Theology from the McCormick Theological Seminary in 1998 and was ordained the same year. He is currently a pastor at the Beloved Community Church of God in Christ in Chicago’s Woodlawn community. 

The dean of the Illinois Congressional delegation in the House of Representatives, Rush has maintained his seat in the 1st Congressional District through challenges and redistricting of the majority-Black district where voters have elected Black representatives since 1929, and Democrats since 1935.

Throughout his nearly three decades in Congress, Rush has focused his work on social justice and economic equity for Black Americans. He currently serves as the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy — a post he has held since 2019 — where he fights for the inclusion of minorities in the energy sector, environmental justice and policies to combat climate change. 

Previously, Rush served as chair on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection from 2007 to 2011.

“I am proud of my legacy in Congress,” said Rush, who is the 24th Democrat to announce they will not seek re-election this year. “I come from the Black experience, but I have a deep-seated love for all of humanity. As a former leader of the Black Panther Party, I was involved in the organizing of the original Rainbow Coalition. I have a long history of organizing on behalf of and serving people in need, regardless of race or other affiliations. I am eager to continue working tirelessly for justice and equality over my next 12 months in Congress and beyond.”

“I love the voters of the 1st Congressional District, and I am immensely grateful to them for sending me to work on their behalf for nearly 30 years. I look forward to working hand in hand with my colleagues who remain in Congress and with the next representative of the 1st Congressional District,” Rush said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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  • 2022 election
  • Black Panther Party
  • Bobby Rush
  • Chicago Sun TImes
  • Congress
  • Emmett Till
  • Fred Hampton
  • Roberts Temple CHurch
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