Rep Elijah Cummings, Powerful Democrat and Civil Rights Advocate, Dies at 68

Elijah Cummings (Credit: Shutterstock)

Rep. Elijah Cummings, a House Democrat who represented Baltimore for more than two decades, died Thursday “due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said in a statement. He was 68.

Cummings passed away around 2:30 a.m. at Gilchrist Hospice Care, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He suffered health problems over the past few years, and was treated for heart disease and a knee infection.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings played a key role in the impeachment inquiry surrounding President Trump, and led other investigations relating to Trump’s
family members serving in the White House.

Cummings was born in Baltimore on January 18, 1951. A sharecropper’s son, he served in the Maryland House of Delegates and fought tirelessly for civil rights.

He was elected to Congress to represent Maryland’s 7th congressional district in 1996, after Kweisi Mfume resigned to lead the NAACP.

An advocate for the poor in his prominently-black district, Cummings brought attention to the struggles of inner-city residents.

Family, friends and former colleagues praised the Congressman Thursday for his dedication to helping others.

“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity ,” Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, his wife and chairwoman of Maryland’s Democratic Party,  said in a statement.

“The entire NAACP family is devastated by the loss of Elijah Cummings,” the NAACP added in a statement. “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.”

Reverend Al Sharpton said he “truly admired” Cummings.

“Saddened to hear of the passing of a great statesman that I truly admired, US Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. May he rest in power,” Sharpton tweeted.

“America lost a giant with the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, a man of principle who championed truth, justice and kindness,” added former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “He fiercely loved his country and the people he served. Rest In Peace, my friend.”

Cummings made international headlines in July when Trump attacked his district as a “rodent infested mess,” after the Maryland politician criticized Trump’s tweet saying four Democratic Congresswomen of color should “go back” to their countries.

Cummings urged Trump and other government officials to stop making “hateful, incendiary comments.”

The Congressman compared Trump’s racist comments to taunts from white mobs as Cummings and other African American children tried to integrate a Baltimore swimming pool in 1962.

“I don’t think these Republicans or Trump fully understand what it feels like to be treated like less than a dog,” Cummings told the Baltimore Sun this past summer.