Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore. He was 68. The impassioned political leader and civil rights advocate died due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said.
Cummings, the head of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee commanded national attention when he took on a lead role in investigating President Trump. He was revered for his principled positions on politically charged issues and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump.
The 12-term congressman had failed to return from an unspecified medical procedure and missed two legislative roll call votes on Tuesday, the first day after a two-week recess, according to The Baltimore Sun.
A Baltimore attorney and civil rights advocate he is memorialized in his commitment to work for change until and building a better future for his younger constituents. “Our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see …” he said earlier this summer at the grand opening of the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation’s Nature Play Space.
In a statement on Sept. 30, Cummings said his doctors expected him to be able to return to Washington “when the House comes back into session in two weeks.” It said he’d be in “constant communication” with his staff and congressional colleagues while he was away.
A sharecropper’s son, Cummings was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his black-majority district.
The Baltimore archdiocese tweeted that Cummings “generously shared his God-given gifts and talents w/the people of his beloved city, state and nation for so many years. We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.”
Former President Barack Obama praised Cummings as “steely yet compassionate, principled yet open to new perspectives.” “And true to the giants of progress he followed into public service, Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most,” Obama added in a statement.
Watch Cummings unleash the wrath here:
Cummings, born on Jan. 18, 1951, served for 13 years in Maryland’s House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in 1996.
“He began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem,” it says. “Since 1996, Congressman Cummings has proudly represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
As a prominent Democratic lawmaker, Cummings frequently found himself on the receiving end of Trump’s Twitter account. In an infamous series of tweets in July, the president referred to Cumming’s Baltimore district as “rat and rodent infested” and suggested that the congressman seldom goes there.
“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily,” Cummings fired back in a letter to Trump. “Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors.”
Referring to investigations of the president, which he perceived as the true impetus for the derogatory remarks, Cummings said in the letter that it is “my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
Despite the president’s remarks, Cummings continued to reach out to the White House and called on government officials to stop making “hateful, incendiary comments.” that divide and distract.
When Democrats took the house in the 2018 election, political pundits had predicted that Cummings’ chairmanship of the Oversight Committee would be a “nightmare” for Trump.
“Are we going to be the nightmare?” he mused in an interview with the Sun. “It’s in the eye of the beholder.”
Cummings wife Maya Rockeymoore Cummings has suspended her campaign for governor of Maryland. The couple have three children.