Rep. Cummings Dies at 68 10/17 06:13
Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper's son who rose to become
the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that investigated President
Donald Trump, died early Thursday of complications from longstanding health
issues, his office said. He was 68.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper's
son who rose to become the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that
investigated President Donald Trump, died early Thursday of complications from
longstanding health issues, his office said. He was 68.
Cummings was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in
his black-majority district , which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore as
well as more well-to-do suburbs.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led
multiple investigations of the president's governmental dealings, including
probes in 2019 relating to the president's family members serving in the White
Trump responded by criticizing the Democrat's district as a "rodent-infested
mess" where "no human being would want to live." The comments came weeks after
Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic
congresswomen of color to get out of the U.S. "right now," and go back to their
"broken and crime-infested countries."
Cummings replied that government officials must stop making "hateful,
incendiary comments" that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its
real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.
"Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear,
using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior," Cummings said in
a speech at the National Press Club.
Cummings' long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through
the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional
seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who
left the seat to lead the NAACP.
Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama's presidential bid in 2008.
By 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee,
which he said was "nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to
Hillary Clinton's campaign" for president.
Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the
struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He was a firm believer in some
much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange
programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.
A key figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry , Cummings had been hoping to
return to Congress after a medical procedure he said would only keep him away
for a week. His statement then didn't detail the procedure. He had previously
been treated for heart and knee issues.
His constituents began mourning shortly after his death at 2:45 a.m.
Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In a statement, his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chairwoman of
Maryland's Democratic Party, said "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."
Cummings was born Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings
he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream
of becoming a lawyer.
"I was devastated," Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly
before he won his seat in Congress. "My whole life changed. I became very
It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a
lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he
entered office in 1983. He rose to become the first black House speaker pro
tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the
emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.
Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland
General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.
"After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people
working together, it's clear that the lines are drawn here," Cummings said
about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.
Cummings chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing
a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national
He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which
had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was