By Micha Green, AFRO Washington D.C. Editor
Father, husband, beloved Baltimorean and Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District Democratic Representative, Elijah Cummings, died in the early morning of Oct. 17, due to complications from long-standing health challenges, according to his office. He was 68.
From a sharecropper’s son to chairman of the U.S. House Committee that investigated President Donald Trump, Cummings, in 68 years, had become a powerful and moving orator, who fearlessly advocated for his constituents and fought for justice.
Cummings spearheaded the 2019 investigations into the president’s governmental dealings including those of his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Cumming’s closing statements at the Feb. 27 Cohen hearing, will be recorded in history as one of his most memorable speeches, and arguably one of the most empathetic final remarks uttered by a Chair of the House Oversight Committee to an admitted criminal, preparing to serve time.
Congressman Elijah Cummings speaks at the grand opening of the McCullough Street Nature Play Space in West Baltimore on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Cummings on Saturday invited President Donald Trump and other Americans to Baltimore, taking the high road after a barrage of presidential tweets disparaging the black-majority city and its long-serving Democratic congressman. (Kim Hairston /The Baltimore Sun via AP)
“Let me tell you the picture that really, really pained me. You were leaving the prison, you were leaving the courthouse, and, I guess it’s your daughter, had braces or something on. Man that thing, man that thing hurt me. As a father of two daughters, it hurt me. And I can imagine how it must feel for you,” Cummings said, before offering light in the darkness of his plight. “But I’m just saying to you — I want to first of all thank you. I know that this has been hard. I know that you’ve faced a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better, a better- a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world. And I mean that from the depths of my heart.”
Cummings wrapped his remarks with words that ring as prophetic in light of his Oct. 17 passing. “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?’”
In late July, the President took to Twitter to call Cummings’ District a, “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” and accused him of being a “racist,” who did not spend enough time in his city.
Despite the tone of the President’s tweets, the Maryland Congressman responded with grace and Baltimore pride. “Mr. President, I go home to my daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents,” Cummings wrote on Twitter.
The night before Cumming’s passing, the AFRO attended the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) Spirit of Democracy Awards 2019 at The Hamilton in Northwest, Washington, D.C., where he was to be honored. Comedian, an event honoree and the evening’s mistress of ceremonies, Meshelle, thanked those whose shoulders on which she stood. A Baltimore Native, Meshelle, thanked Cummings for his service and leadership.
“I want to thank my Congressman Elijah Cummings. I want to thank Elijah Cummings, who saw fit to let me work with him at the . Elijah Cummings never left the neighborhood where they say the rats live in. You can walk to Elijah Cummings house right now, and if he’s home, he’ll open the door,” she told the crowd, not knowing he would pass away only hours later.
Cummings was born, lived and died a Baltimorean. He was born Jan. 18, 1951 in Baltimore, graduated with honors from Baltimore City College, and died at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, around 2:45 a.m. , according to a statement from the Congressman’s Office.
After graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and then law school at the University of Maryland, Cummings spent much of his career serving the people of his state and city.
He practiced law for 19 years, before serving in the Maryland House of Delegates from January of 1983 to 1996, representing the 39thCongressional District. As a member of the Maryland General Assembly, Cummings served as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and broke barriers as the first African American in Maryland history to hold the role of speaker pro tempore, the second highest position in the House of Delegates.
Since 1996, Cummings has represented Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, where he served on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the House Benghazi Committee and recently became Chairman of the U.S. House and Oversight Committee. He was also a member of caucuses including, the Congressional Arts Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, which he chaired from 2003-2005.
In addition to his legislative duties, Cummings wrote a regular column for the AFRO– American Newspaper.
Despite his many political titles, Cummings was also a father of three and has been married to Chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, Maya Rockeymoore, since 2008.
Rockeymoore remembered her husband in a statement.
“Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his 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.”
Renowned Baltimoreans, officials and organizations alike are also remembering the fallen leader.
“My heart is heavy with a flood of tears waking up to the news my friend
has died! Rest in peace my friend,” White House correspondent, CNN commentator and Baltimore native, April Ryan wrote on Twitter. “May God be with your wife, your family, friends & the City of Baltimore who mourns your loss. May the Nation & the world remember your heat your fight.”
My heart is heavy with a flood of tears waking up to the news my friend @RepCummings has died! Rest in peace my friend. May God be with your wife, your family, friends & the City of Baltimore who mourns your loss. May the Nation & the world remember your heat & your fight.
— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) October 17, 2019
Dr. Ben Chavis, President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association wrote, “Long Live the freedom-fighting spirit of Brother Leader Congressman Elijah Cummings (R.I.P.).”
The NAACP tweeted they were “devastated,” by the news of Cumming’s passing calling him, “a fearless champion of justice who fought tirelessly for civil rights equality for everyone, including his beloved Baltimore.”
“Our democracy is stronger because of him,” the NAACP added.
Fellow Democratic Congressman, Anthony Brown, who represents Maryland’s Fourth Congressional District, mourned the passing of a friend and counselor.
“For nearly four decades, Maryland and our nation has been shaped by efforts to advance civil rights and tackle injustice, promote economic well being and uplift those left behind,” Brown wrote in a statement. “Elijah was a force of nature and lived a courageous life of purpose. He saw our country as a place where anything is possible and strived to make a better world. Elijah was never afraid to stand for his beliefs and he never lost sight of those he served – especially the people of Baltimore.”