October 18, 2019
He first took the national spotlight marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Martin Luther King—and he continued to demand justice over 50 years later as a key figure in the impeachment inquiry centered on President Donald Trump.
Representative Elijah E. Cummings (Maryland)—a son of sharecroppers who rose to become one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress; as well as a champion of his home city, Baltimore; and a key adversary of President Trump—died on October 17. He was 68.
According to a report by The New York Times, his passing was confirmed by a spokesperson, Trudy Perkins, in a statement that only said he died of “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”
Cummings, who was in his 13th term serving as a representative for Maryland, was chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, a position that gave him sweeping power to investigate Trump and his administration. And he used it, the Times said—noting that as a critical ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Cummings spent his final months sparring with the president.
Indeed, Cummings said that the president’s effort to block congressional lines of inquires was “far worse than Watergate.”
They also locked horns when Trump assailed Cummings’s beloved Baltimore, the Times said —a city whose population is two-thirds African-American—as “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” and “the worst run and most dangerous” city in the United States. The congressman pushed back, vociferously defended his hometown.
President Trump on Thursday tweeted his “warmest condolences” to Cummings’s family and friends and praised him for his “strength, passion and wisdom.”
Many others praised him for his honesty and forthright demeanor.“He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the Democratic caucus, wrote on Twitter. “Congress has lost a Champion. Heaven has gained an Angel of Justice. May he forever #RestInPower.”
Senator Benjamin Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, who served with. Cummings in the House, said his death had left an “irreplaceable void.”
“Quite possibly no elected official mattered so much to his constituents,” Cardin said in a statement. “Chairman Cummings guaranteed a voice to so many who would otherwise not have one, and stood as a symbol for the heights one could reach if they paid no mind to obstacles, naysayers and hate.”
As his health deteriorated, the Times said, Cummings’s wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, ended her bid for governor. In a statement on Thursday, she called her late husband “a dynamic figure in American politics.”
“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,” said Maya Cummings, who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party.
Research contact: @nytimes