House Oversight chair Elijah Cummings died on Thursday morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate, at approximately 2:45 A.M.
His death is attributed to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges”. Cummings had recently undergone an unspecified medical procedure and hadn’t returned to his office this week.
He was 68.
The news will be received with an outpouring of grief on Capitol Hill and certainly in his district.
The congressman rose to national prominence for his response to the death of Freddie Gray which sparked the Baltimore riots and also for his rejoinders to Trey Gowdy during the Benghazi hearings. You can watch Cummings speak at Gray’s funeral here.
“It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes”, Gowdy once told The Hill. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in a memo they got that morning, and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul”.
The Baltimore Sun on Thursday morning recapped Cummings’s political career:
In 1982, with the support of several established city officials, Cummings ran for state delegate and won. He served in the Maryland General Assembly for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tem.
In late 1995, Cummings decided to run for Maryland’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House after Rep. Kweisi Mfume announced he would resign to become the head of the NAACP. Cummings served as a congressman since 1996.
And here’s the Washington Post on his education:
Cummings voted against the the Iraq war, arguing that there was not sufficient evidence of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. He also opposed the release of the Starr report.
According to his own account, he once went two winters with no heat during the 1990s when, due to financial problems incurred while supporting his children and attempting to preserve his legal practice while simultaneously running for Congress, he couldn’t afford to fix his furnace.
“I didn’t ask the federal government or anyone else to do me any favors”, he remarked of the period. Asked why, he said “I have a moral conscience”.
Cummings was a frequent target of Donald Trump. The Oversight committee is one of the trio of panels leading the impeachment probe. Trump sued Cummings in that capacity earlier this year when the committee sought documents from the president’s accountant.
In July, Trump embarked on an egregious smear campaign aimed at Cummings and Baltimore, a city the president maligned in a string of tweets and public comments that elicited condemnation from all corners. Among other things, Trump called the city a “rat and rodent-infested mess” after watching a Fox News segment aimed at Cummings. The president went on to suggest, among other things, that Cummings might be stealing money from the government and should be investigated.
Cummings attended Trump’s inauguration in an effort to show that he was willing to give the president a chance. Trump granted him an audience for a one-on-one but a single time.
“Mr. President, you’re now 70-something, I’m 60-something. Very soon you and I will be dancing with the angels”, Cummings told Trump. “The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do — what present can we bring to generations unborn?”