When Michigan Rep. John Dingell (search) first went to Congress, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and a new Ford Thunderbird cost less than $3,000.

On Thursday, Dingell will become the fourth-longest serving House member in U.S. history, surpassing former House Speaker Sam Rayburn (search) of Texas, who served for a little more than 48 years.

Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn, Mich., was first elected on Dec. 13, 1955, in a special election to replace his father, who died in office.

Dingell said he wouldn't have made it through his early years in Congress without Rayburn's help.

"I may have surpassed him in terms of time served, but I plan to work for a few more years in the hope that I can equal his greatness," Dingell said. "That would be a truly magnificent accomplishment."

According to the Congressional Research Service (search), only three members have served longer than Dingell: Mississippi Democrat Jamie Whitten, who served 53 years, 2 months and 13 days; Georgia Democrat Carl Vinson, who served 50 years, 2 months and 13 days; and New York Democrat Emanuel Celler, who served 49 years, 10 months and 13 days.