NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Elijah Cummings: 1951-2019

United States Representative Elijah Cummings, a longtime member of the House from Maryland who ably served as Chair of the House Oversight & Reform Committee, has died, his office said in a statement. Cummings was sixty-eight.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy collective heart that we announce the passing of Chairman Elijah Eugene Cummings,” his family said.

A giant: Elijah Cummings

A giant: The incomparable Elijah Cummings at the 2017 AFGE Legislative Conference (Photo: AFGE, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

“He was a father, a husband, a son of Baltimore, and a Statesman who served Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for more than 20 years, and served 16 years prior to that as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly. Chairman Cummings will always be remembered for dedicating his life’s work to improving the lives of others, standing up for his community, and protecting our Democracy.”

“Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district 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. It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly,” Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings said.

Rockeymoore Cummings is Elijah Cummings’ spouse. Together, the couple had three children, who are no doubt equally heartbroken over losing their father.

The widely-respected Democratic leader’s passing sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill. He was fondly remembered by many colleagues as “a giant” who set a good example for others through his caring leadership and good works.

Cummings was a fierce advocate for open government and voting rights.

On social media, thousands shared a speech Cummings gave earlier this year in which he repeated what he said were the last words of his mother before she passed on: “Do not let them take the vote away from us.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:

The people of Baltimore, the U.S. Congress and America have lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth: our beloved Chairman Elijah Cummings. I am personally devastated by his passing.

In the House, Elijah was our North Star.

He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose.  His principled leadership as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.

As a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he was always fighting for his district and for the state of Maryland. He was a powerful voice for building the infrastructure of America and creating good-paying jobs.

As a Member of the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors, he took great pride in Maryland’s role in our national security.

Chairman Cummings’ story was the story of America: a sharecroppers’ son who dedicated his life to advancing justice, respecting human dignity and ending discrimination.

He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it, and he dedicated his life to advancing the values that safeguard our republic: justice, equality, liberty, fairness.

Earlier this year, Chairman Cummings asked us:

‘When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?’ May Chairman Cummings’ strength guide us as we carry on his work to honor the oath and protect our democracy.

In the Congress, we will miss his wisdom, his warm friendship and his great humanity. In Baltimore, we will miss our champion.

May it be a comfort to his wife Maya, his three children and Chairman Cummings’ entire family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.

Former President Barack Obama said:

Michelle and I are heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he showed us all not only the importance of checks and balances within our democracy, but also the necessity of good people stewarding it.

Steely yet compassionate, principled yet open to new perspectives, Chairman Cummings remained steadfast in his pursuit of truth, justice, and reconciliation.

It’s a tribute to his native Baltimore that one of its own brought such character, tact, and resolve into the halls of power every day.

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.

May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service.

Our deepest sympathies and abiding love go to his wife, Maya, his three children, and all those whose lives he touched.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said:

America has lost a hero, and I have lost a dear friend. Elijah Cummings was the conscience of Congress.

His North Star was helping people, especially those in the shadows. And his legacy runs deep – from the neighborhoods of Baltimore to the halls of the House.

Congressman Cummings taught me so much over the years, and I feel deeply honored to have worked with him on so many issues that mattered to Maryland families. My heart is broken today, but I will continue fighting day and night to carry on his legacy of service. I’m keeping his family and Maryland in my prayers.

Civil rights icon and colleague John Lewis said:

The American people have lost a great leader at a time of crisis in our democracy. Chairman Elijah Cummings gave all he had. He dedicated his entire life to serving the public good. When this nation needed him most, he became a moral voice “crying in the wilderness,” and his words and actions called a reluctant nation to conscience.

He was a defining and commanding chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee who was not afraid to use the power vested in him to inquire, investigate, and demand the answers the American people deserve. He led us to the place where we, as a nation, finally understood government reform was urgently required.

His passion, his vigor, and his example were a master class in leadership demonstrating how we must all dig in to defend and preserve our democracy. His passing is a tremendous blow to the struggle to build a fair and just society in America.

Though his voice will be sorely missed on the national stage and in this Congress, the people of Baltimore have suffered the greatest loss. As a representative of the 7th congressional district of Maryland, he never, ever forgot his roots. He was an ardent and beloved advocate for the people of his district. Even during a time of turmoil when mourners spilled into the streets during the tragic death of Freddie Gray, Rep. Cummings dove into the sea of humanity, joined the people of his district, and became a calming force at a turbulent time.

There was no greater friend to the poor, to the lost, to the left out and left behind than Representative Cummings.

His fearless advocacy and his ability to be a true representative on their behalf helped them stand a little bit taller and a little bit straighter, even while forces work to erase their contribution.

My heart goes out to the people of the 7th district of Maryland, the Maryland delegation, to his wife and family, and to all my colleagues in the Congress who mourn his death today.

Representative Elijah Cummings was one of a kind, he will remain in our hearts always, and he will be deeply missed.

The United States has lost a great Congressman and Baltimore has lost one of its most faithful sons,” agreed former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

“Elijah Cummings — fearless in the battle for justice, kind and gentle toward every person he served. Well done, my friend.

A devastating loss for our country,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Chairman Cummings was a giant: a universally respected leader who brought profound insight, commitment, and moral fortitude to Congress. His guidance and vision was an enormous gift. I will forever cherish his example. May he rest in power.”

Elijah Cummings was everything these touching tributes have said he was… and more. Cummings believed in leading others to new positions.

Cummings took his oath of office very seriously, unlike the current narcissistic occupant of the Oval Office, who tried and failed to make him a punching bag earlier this year and now has the chutzpah to pretend to offer condolences.

North Star… giant… conscience of Congress. It says so much about who Cummings was that he is being described over and over again in these terms.

This country has lost a noble and decent man who was dedicated to serving it well and teaching others how to serve it well. We hope he will be appropriately honored for his life of good works. Cummings ought to receive a state funeral if his family wishes it, and he ought to receive a permanent memorial in Congress.

Rest in power, Chairman. We’ll miss you. But we’ll always remember you, and try to live up to the good example that you set for us.

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