Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings Dies at 68

MMaryland Representative Elijah Cummings, a civil rights leader and chairman of the House and Oversight Reform Committee, has died at age 68.

A statement from his office obtained by NBC News states that the Democratic representative died on October 17 due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” The congressman died at around 2:30 a.m. Eastern at Gilchrist Hospice Care, according to the statement.

Since 1996, Cummings had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and served 12 terms in the House of Representatives, the Associated Press reported. He started his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, serving for 14 years and becoming the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem.

Cummings had been absent from Capitol Hill in the past few weeks while undergoing medical attention, The Baltimore Sun reported. He had not participated in a roll call vote since September 11. A statement from his wife and Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings called Cummings 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 that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” she wrote in the statement. “It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”

Cummings devoted himself to civil rights and the City of Baltimore. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called Cummings a “fierce advocate for civil rights” in his statement following the death of the congressman.

"Congressman Cummings leaves behind an incredible legacy of fighting for Baltimore City and working to improve people’s lives. He was a passionate and dedicated public servant whose countless contributions made our state and our country better,” the statement read.

Democratic presidential candidates also released statements following the shocking news of Cummings’ death. “We lost a giant today. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a fearless leader, a protector of democracy, and a fighter for the people of Maryland. Our world is dimmer without him in it,” California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted.

“Representative Elijah Cummings was a giant in the House, an unwavering champion for his district and all Americans, and a dear friend. My heart goes out to his wife Maya and his family,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted. “Good people everywhere will miss his rumbling voice, his kind heart, and his deep conviction that every human being has worth. Rest in power, Elijah.”

“Today our country lost a true leader. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a friend, a passionate fighter for justice, and a powerful voice of moral conscience in our government who served his country for decades with dignity and integrity. I’m blessed to have known him,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker tweeted.

Cummings, as the chairman of the House and Oversight Reform Committee, was a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Trump also released a statement following the news of Cummings’ death.

“My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!” he wrote on Twitter.

In July, Trump criticized Cummings after he had called out top Homeland Security officials for the conditions migrants endured while detained at the southern border, according to a previous report from the AP. In response, Trump called the congressman a “brutal bully.”

“Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men [and] women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA,” Trump previously tweeted.

“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient [and] well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous [and] filthy place,” he continued in his Twitter thread.

Cummings was quick to stand up for Baltimore and the hashtag #wearebaltimore trended on social media that day.

“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors,” Cummings previously wrote on Twitter. “It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”

During a one-on-one conversation about lowering drug prices with Trump in 2017, Cummings previously told the president: “Mr. President, you’re now 70-something, I’m 60-something. Very soon you and I will be dancing with the angels. The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do — what present can we bring to generations unborn?,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

“We don’t need to be just representing 30-something percent of the people that like us. You need to represent all the people,” he said.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.