The morning of Feb. 5, venerable Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7th), received the news that his beloved mother overseer Ruth Elma Cummings had died. She was 91.

Rep. Elijah Cummings with his mother, overseer Ruth Elma Cummings. (Courtesy photo)

“My mother was one of the smartest, most thoughtful and loving people I have ever known. She created a home for me, my dad and my six siblings where God was at the center and love overflowed,” Cummings told the AFRO.

“Through her example, my mother taught me to lead with integrity and that service to others is the highest calling. Although my heart is heavy, I am grateful for the memories I have to share with my family, Victory Prayer Chapel, and the greater community of a phenomenal woman, who filled our lives with principled guidance and joy.”

Mrs. Cummings was one of 17 children born to the late Willie Cochran and Gussie Johnson Cochran on July 7, 1926 in Manning, South Carolina. She was educated in the public schools of Clarendon County, South Carolina. When she was a girl, her faith in God manifested powerfully and guided her for the rest of her days. She would often tell the story of how she would feel the spirit of God as she worked in the fields, where she would pray and become so enthralled she would preach to the cows.

She also told the story of when she was in her mid teens, she dreamed of the man she would eventually marry. A few years later, she was traveling by wagon down a rural dirt road when a log fell off of the wagon. A young man picked up the log and put it back on the wagon. Cummings realized that was the young man in her dream, it was Robert Cummings, the man she married June 23, 1945.

Soon after the birth of their first child, Robert Cummings, Jr., the couple followed the lead of other family members and moved to Baltimore in search of a better life for their growing family. They settled in South Baltimore and six more children were born including: Cheretheria (known as “Retha”), Elijah, James, Diane, Carnel and Yvonne.

To help with the financial needs of a burgeoning family, Mrs. Cummings worked as a domestic in the homes of wealthy Baltimoreans. Yet, as she grew in her role as a young mother and wife, she also continued to grow on her spiritual journey.

She first joined Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, on Warner St. (near what would become M&T Bank Stadium). She later joined United Glorious Church of Christ. Soon after, she was guided to open up the family home (after consulting with her husband) to Monday night prayer meetings. Those prayer meetings and her evangelism continued after the family purchased a home in Edmondson Village in West Baltimore.

After the family moved to the Village, Mrs. Cummings became a member of Faith and Deliverance Church of Christ, and it was at this time she was called to pastor. That’s when she established the Victory Prayer Chapel in the basement of their new home. The church later moved to the corner of Walbrook Ave. and Monroe St. But, as the church grew, the congregation relocated to the Forest Park community, on Ayrdale Ave., in Northwest Baltimore. It was at the Ayrdale Ave. location that Pastor Cummings was elevated to overseer and she appointed Katherine Sykes as pastor. Eventually, Victory Prayer Chapel settled at its current home at 4848 Reisterstown Rd., in Northwest Baltimore.

Under her leadership, the church created a food pantry, established clothing drives, founded a prison ministry and a nursing home ministry. Mrs. Cummings was also a strong youth and education advocate. She established the Elder Robert Cummings Sr., Scholarship Fund in honor of her husband of 55 years, who died in 2000. The scholarship has aided several youth members of the church attend college and earn degrees.

Overseer Cummings was a devoted matriarch of her family. A gifted cook, she would often utilize family dinners to deepen and strengthen family ties. She especially loved “Second Sunday” family dinners hosted by her daughter Retha.

Ruth Elma Cummings is preceded in death by her 16 siblings, her late husband and her grandson Christopher. She leaves to mourn: her children Robert Cummings, Jr. (Valerie), Cheretheria Blount, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Maya), James Cummings (Rosa), Diane Woodson, Carnel Cummings, Sr., and Yvonne Cummings Jennings (Torrance); grandchildren Deborah Thomas, Raymond Cummings, Kevin Woodson, Candace Cummings, Jennifer Cummings, Michael Woodson (Tiffany), Anthony Woodson (Randi), Adia Cummings, Carnel Cummings, Jr., Kyre Cummings and a host of other family members, church family members and friends.

The public viewing will be held Feb. 9 from 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. at March Funeral Home West, 4300 Wabash Ave., Baltimore, Maryland 21215. Family hour will be from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations go to Elder Robert Cummings Sr. Scholarship Fund. Checks can be sent to 617 Lyndhurst St., Baltimore, Maryland, 21229 c/o Diane Woodson, Treasurer, Scholarship Committee.

Funeral Arrangements for Mrs. Ruth Cummings

Public Viewing

Fri., Feb. 9

8:30 AM – 7:30 PM

Family Hour: 5:00 PM – 7:30 AM

Location: March Funeral Home, West

4300 Wabash Ave.

Baltimore, Md. 21215


Sat., Feb. 10

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Location: Victory Prayer Chapel

4848 Reisterstown Rd.

Baltimore, Md. 21215

Celebration of Life, 11 a.m.

Internment immediately following services

Loudon Park Cemetery

3620 Wilkens Ave.

Baltimore, Md. 21229


The repast will be held at the Victory Prayer Chapel

In Lieu of Flowers:

Donations to the  Elder Robert Cummings Sr. Scholarship Fund are preferred.

Checks can be sent to 617 Lyndhurst St., Baltimore, Md. 21229

In care of the Diane Woodson – Treasure – Scholarship Committee