Elijah Cummings, longtime civil rights leader and Baltimore congressman, died this morning at age 68.
Cummings’ office released a statement, saying, “At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursday Oct. 17, 2019, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) passed away at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate, due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges. More details will be forthcoming.”
“Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility. He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” Cummings’ widow, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings said. ” It has been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”
They have three children.
A leading figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He had been out of his office this week, recovering from a medical procedure.
Cummings lived in the Madison Park community in Baltimore and was an active member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church.
His Early Life
Cummings was born on January 18, 1951 in Baltimore, the son of Ruth Elma (née Cochran) and Robert Cummings. His parents were sharecroppers. He was the third child of seven. Cummings graduated with honors from the Baltimore City College high school in 1969.
He later attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he served in the student government as sophomore class president, student government treasurer and later student government president. He became a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
Cummings graduated from law school at the University of Maryland School of Law, receiving his J.D. in 1976, and was admitted to the Maryland Bar later that year. He practiced law for 19 years before first being elected to the House in the 1996 elections.
Cummings received 12 honorary doctoral degrees from universities across America, most recently an honorary doctorate of public service from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2017.
For 14 years, Cummings served in the Maryland House of Delegates. His predecessor, Lena King Lee, raised funds and campaigned for him; years later, Cummings credited her with launching his political career. In the Maryland General Assembly, he served as Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and was the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tempore, the second highest position in the House of Delegates.
Cummings also served on several boards and commissions, both in and out of Baltimore. Those include SEED Schools of Maryland Board of Directors and the University of Maryland Law School Board of Advisors. He served on numerous Maryland boards and commissions including the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel. He was an honorary member of the Baltimore Zoo Board of Trustees.
In addition to his many speaking engagements, he wrote a biweekly column for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper.
Former President Barack Obama
Michelle and I are heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings. May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service.
Presidential Candidate, Kamala Harris:
We lost a giant today. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a fearless leader, a protector of democracy, and a fighter for the people of Maryland. Our world is dimmer without him in it.
President Donald J. Trump:
My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan:
I have ordered Maryland flags to fly at half-staff to honor the life and legacy of Congressman Elijah Cummings. We extend our deepest sympathies to his friends, family, and colleagues. pic.twitter.com/K1gKf06
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
“The people of Baltimore, the U.S. Congress and America have lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth: our beloved Chairman Elijah Cummings. I am personally devastated by his passing.
In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose. His principled leadership as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.
As a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he was always fighting for his district and for the state of Maryland. He was a powerful voice for building the infrastructure of America and creating good-paying jobs. As a Member of the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors, he took great pride in Maryland’s role in our national security.
Chairman Cummings’ story was the story of America: a sharecroppers’ son who dedicated his life to advancing justice, respecting human dignity and ending discrimination. He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it, and he dedicated his life to advancing the values that safeguard our republic: justice, equality, liberty, fairness.
Earlier this year, Chairman Cummings asked us, ‘When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?’ May Chairman Cummings’ strength guide us as we carry on his work to honor the oath and protect our democracy.
In the Congress, we will miss his wisdom, his warm friendship and his great humanity. In Baltimore, we will miss our champion. May it be a comfort to his wife Maya, his three children and Chairman Cummings’ entire family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.”
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young:
“With the passing of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the City of Baltimore, our country, and people throughout the world have lost a powerful voice and one of the strongest and most gifted crusaders for social justice.
Rep. Cummings, the son of sharecroppers whose ancestors were slaves, wasn’t afraid to use his considerable intellect, booming voice, and poetic oratory to speak out against brutal dictators bent on oppression, unscrupulous business executives who took advantage of unsuspecting customers, or even a U.S. President. He was, put simply, a man of God who never forgot his duty to fight for the rights and dignity of the marginalized and often forgotten.
As we enter this period of mourning, let us remember his long legacy of justice as an example to us all of a life well lived.
Rest easy, Congressman. We love you and will draw strength by remembering your selfless acts of service and dedication to pursuing equality and basic human rights for all people.”