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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