Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland dies at 68, remembered as a voice for social justice

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., center, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, left, and the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau Kenneth Prewitt speak during a news conference to encourage the residents of Maryland to fill out their census forms Wednesday, May 31, 2000 in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton).
Baltimore Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Martin O'Malley, left, horses with U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, right, as he is introduced during a campaign rally for U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md., in Baltimore, Thursday ,Oct. 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Newly elected Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2002. At left, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex., the outgoing chairperson. Members of the House Congressional Black Caucus said Senate Republican leader Trent Lott's apology for implying the country would have been better off had Strom Thurmond won the presidency when he ran in 1948 on a segregationist ticket was insufficient. The comment was made at a 100th birthday party for Thurmond. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks about affirmative action as Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., left, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, listen during a church service at Community of Faith Church in Houston, Sunday, March 30, 2003. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the University of Michigan's undergraduate college and law school should be allowed to use race as a factor in admissions. (AP Photo/Michael Stravato)
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, smiles, Thursday, April 17, 2003, in Baltimore after recording the democratic response to President George W. Bush's weekly radio address airing nationally on Saturday. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah Cummings, right, talks with former POW, U.S. Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson during a CBC tribute for Johnson on Capitol Hill Thursday, June 12, 2003. Specialist Johnson, seated, was captured in Iraq at the same time as former POW Jessica Lynch. Behind Johnson is Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, left and Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Boitano)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, June 24, 2003. From left are Congressional Black Caucus leader Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Pelosi, and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. The press conference was called by the Congressional Black Caucus to affirm their support of yesterday's Supreme Court decision, which upheld the right of universities to keep admissions policies that use race largely intact. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., second from left, listen to President Bush address the National Urban League conference in Pittsburgh, Monday, July 28, 2003. Backstage after his speech, Bush spoke for about 15 minutes with Cummings, Congressional Black Caucus chairman, Jackson and former Clinton administration Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. The three encouraged Bush to intervene in the civil war in Liberia.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md, left, accepts the Elmer P. Martin Public Service Award from Dr. Joanne M. Martin, co-founder of the Great Blacks and Wax Museum, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003, in Washington. Cummings was honored for outstanding contributions to society. (AP Photo/Adele Starr)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gestures during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004 in Washington. Cummings was part of a news conference to support the Civil Rights Act of 2004. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Michael Moore, director of "Fahrenheit 9/11," second from left, meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill Thursday, June 24, 2004, in Washington, prior to a news conference. Moore was praised for his movies' exposure of what the caucus calls President Bush's propaganda machine. From left are, Caucus Chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Moore, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Lauren Burke)
Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, shakes hands with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as he is introduced at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 34th annual Legislative Conference Dinner in Washington Saturday, Sept. 11, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to the press after a meeting with Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, on the Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 22, 2004, in Washington. Nader met with more than a dozen members of the CBC Tuesday and the Democratic lawmakers asked him to drop out of the presidential race; a step Nader rejected. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
** FILE ** In this May 24, 2005, file photo, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a news conference regarding steroids in sports on Capitol Hill, in Washington. The White House office responsible for fighting illegal drug use has focused for nearly a decade on youths smoking marijuana instead of a broader strategy that would sufficiently target adult drug users, according to a study commissioned by a Senate committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Clinton, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., center, and Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, left, participate in church services at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md. Sunday, Nov. 1, 1998. Clinton urged members of the church Sunday to turn out in large numbers and support his party's candidates on Election Day. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., pauses as he addresses mourners at a funeral for Freddie Gray, Monday, April 27, 2015, at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., left, and the committee's ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., go to the House Rules Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2012, to argue procedures as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on whether Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt of Congress because he has refused to give the Oversight Committee all the documents it wants related to Operation Fast and Furious, the flawed gun-smuggling probe involving Mexican drug cartels. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, to discuss President-elect Donald Trump's conflicts of interest and ethical issues. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., claps during a campaign event featuring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at City Garage in Baltimore, Sunday, April 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, from panel of witnesses including Jennifer O’Connor of the Office of the White House Counsel, who once worked at the IRS, during the committee's hearing on "IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner’s missing e-mails." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Congressional staff members gather at the Capitol to raise awareness of the recent killings of black men by police officers, both of which did not result in grand jury indictments, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. They are joined by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., second from left, and Senate Chaplain Barry Black, far right. The walkout came as both houses of Congress attempt to pass a spending measure and avert government shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges Friday, against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, speaks to faculty and students regarding a series of racial incidents this summer in which nooses were left for a black Coast Guard Academy cadet and an officer conducting race relations training at the Academy in New London, Conn., on Thursday Oct. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
House Select Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, talks with the committee's ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, prior to the start of the committee's hearing on reviewing efforts to secure U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and personnel. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., delivers remarks as he introduces Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh during her inauguration ceremony inside the War Memorial Building in Baltimore, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
House Select Committee on Benghazi ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, following a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing on the implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., shakes hands with a Maryland State Trooper Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in the aftermath of rioting following Monday's funeral for Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. The violence that started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon had spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near Camden Yards. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, right, embraces Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., after being introduced and endorsed by him in front of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., during a campaign event at City Garage in Baltimore, Sunday, April 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee, listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 15, 2016, during the committee's hearing to consider a censure of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, gives two thumbs up following his speech during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., participates in a panel discussion during a summit on the country's opioid epidemic at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, leaves a secure area at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Cummings said that a whistleblower has raised allegations that President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asks Republican colleagues to intervene in the separation of immigrant families at the border, during opening remarks at a joint House Committee on the Judiciary and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, hearing examining the Inspector General's report of the FBI's Clinton email probe, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., addresses supporters of Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous at an election night party, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Baltimore. Jealous won the Democratic nomination for governor in Maryland, setting up a battle against popular incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the fall. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., arrives for House Democratic leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., hugs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., during a ceremonial swearing-in for members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, kisses Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, before poses during a ceremonial swearing-in, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, is asked by reporters about comments by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who used profanity to describe President Donald Trump and call for his impeachment, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Reporters surround Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, after announcement that President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify publicly before Rep. Cummings' panel next month, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee will be the first major public hearing for Democrats, who have promised greater scrutiny of Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to the media after the hearing of President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., prepares to lead a meeting to call for subpoenas after a career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump's administration were granted security clearances despite "disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The issue sets the stage for another fight between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House, with Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee's ranking Republican, saying in a statement that Cummings' probe is a "partisan attack." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., leads a contentious meeting to call for subpoenas after a career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump's administration were granted security clearances despite "disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The issue sets the stage for another fight between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House, with Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee's ranking Republican, saying in a statement that Cummings' probe is a "partisan attack." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to reporters about issuing subpoenas as part of his investigation of people in President Donald Trump's administration who were granted security clearances despite "disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., center, and other Democratic House committee chairs talk to reporters just after passing a resolution to take legal action against President Donald Trump's administration and potential witnesses, a response to those who defy subpoenas in Congress' Russia probe and other investigations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. From left are Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gives opening remarks before the House Oversight Committee hearing on family separation and detention centers, Friday, July 12, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to members of the media before Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan appears before a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., arrives before Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan appears before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., holds up his gavel and speaks as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan appears before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., hold a newss conference after the back-to-back hearings with former special counsel Robert Mueller who testified about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. Cummings says government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments’’ that only to serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. Cummings says government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments’’ that only to serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., a powerful politician who spent more than 20 years in Congress and 16 in the Maryland House of Delegates, is being remembered as a politician with a moral compass who worked tirelessly for his constituents.

Cummings, who had been in failing health, died early Thursday at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Baltimore. He was 68.

In Congress, Cummings chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee and was a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. He represented the 7th District congressional seat, encompassing parts of Baltimore City and Howard County, since the late 1990s.

His death was announced in a statement from his office early Thursday. The statement said he died at 2:45 a.m. from “complications concerning long-standing health challenges.”

His wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party, said Cummings will be remembered for improving the lives of others, standing up for his community and protecting democracy.

She released this statement:

“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.”



Cummings’ death evokes passionate reaction

News of Cummings’ death prompted a stream of messages from members of Congress and a host of other political figures across Maryland and the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she is “devastated” by the death of her “brother in Baltimore,” and had ordered the flag to fly at half-staff over the U.S. Capitol.

Later Thursday, a moment of silence was held on the House floor to honor Cummings. “A moment of silence will not be enough to respect the life of Elijah Cummings,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, also of Maryland. “What will be enough is if we follow his example for a lifetime.”

President Donald Trump also ordered flags to be lowered at the White House. Last summer, Trump criticized the congressman’s Baltimore district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Upon news of Cummings death, Trump made no mention of his past comments and tweeted his “condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see firsthand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, told WTOP she was shocked by Cummings’ death, especially in light of the fact he was still handling matters before the House Oversight and Reform Committee last week. She expected he would continue in that role for years.

“It’s interesting that as much of a critic as he, of course, was of the administration. He ran the committee, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee which he chaired, with such evenhandedness that he was admired on both sides,” she said. “He had friends on both sides of the aisle and respect on both sides of the aisle.”

“Nobody messed with him,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who served with Cummings on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told WTOP. “When he got mad about peoples’ misbehavior, everybody looked up. And everybody realized that he had called us back to our better angels.”

Raskin said Cummings had struggled with health problems in recent years.

“He insisted on going forward. His courage, his stamina, his commitment were just remarkable. We knew he was struggling, but he never uttered a word of complaint. It is hard to measure the enormity of the loss that Maryland and the whole country have just suffered with Elijah going. We’re going to miss him every day. He was the prophetic voice connecting us to all of the great movements of our past and connecting us to the future,” Raskin said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said Cummings was a friend and a colleague. The two went to the same Baltimore high school and served in the Maryland General Assembly today.

Cardin called Cummings a “powerful voice for social justice.”

“No one can fill his void,” Cardin told WTOP. “That void will be there. But we’ve got to carry on that struggle, that struggle for basic rights for all people in our country, that the path to make sure that our Constitution is respected and to make sure that we continue to serve as he did.”

Cardin also said, “Quite possibly no elected official mattered so much to his constituents. Chairman Cummings guaranteed a voice to so many who would otherwise not have one, and stood as a symbol for the heights one could reach if they paid no mind to obstacles, naysayers and hate. His commitment to his city and country was unwavering, as will be my lasting respect for him.”

Sen. Chris Van. Hollen, D-Md., called Cummings a hero.

“At a time of chaos and division, our friend Elijah Cummings stood strong as a man of principle, unity, dignity, and compassion. His insatiable thirst for justice was rooted in his core. Maryland has lost a beloved son and our nation a hero of our times,” Van Hollen said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said Congress has lost “one of the great ones.”

“His passion, eloquence and decency were hallmarks of a leadership style that was born of humble roots. Elijah Cummings never forgot those roots or the Baltimore neighborhoods he represented,” Connolly said. “His barrel-chested voice was a force to be reckoned with. It was my deep honor to call him friend. His passing leaves a void at a time of national crisis and a void in our hearts.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted that he was “tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Elijah Cummings. This is a loss for Baltimore, Congress, and the country.”

Warner told WTOP Cummings was a “powerful moral voice in Congress.”

“My hope would be that whoever tries to replace him could bring that same sense of commitment to his community, as well as humility. You know, a lot of folks get in politics and they kind of forget the past and forget who brought them to the process. Elijah Cummings never forgot where he came from,” Warner said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, described Cummings as “a fierce advocate for civil rights.”

“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,” Hogan said.

Former Maryland Lt. Governor and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Cummings always made it clear that lawmakers needed to uphold the Constitution and could not walk away from their responsibilities.

“He made it very clear that what he was doing and why he was fighting was not for some partisan political gain, but, but was consistent with his ideal of servant leadership. We will miss that, and we certainly wish more men and women in authority and leadership would use him as the model that he was,” Steele told WTOP.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela A. Alsobrooks said Cummings’ legacy will live on.

“Congressman Cummings spoke truth-to-power, he was a beacon of light and hope, and he served as a mentor and inspiration for countless elected officials, like me. I know that he was impassioned by his constituents and empowered by God,” Alsobrooks said.

“The death of Congressman Cummings is a huge loss for Maryland, and all Americans. He was a towering force for good, a champion of truth and justice for all, and a great friend and defender of the Chesapeake Bay. His wisdom and leadership will be sorely missed,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Cummings never shied away from standing up for what was right.

“The Congressman holds a special place in the hearts of Washingtonians – not only as an alumnus of Howard University, where he served as Student Government President – but for helping us forge ahead on our path to D.C. Statehood. His work to make every community he touched a better place is one we should all emulate,” Bowser said.

In a statement, the NAACP remembered Cummings as a “passionate and spirited” congressman, who was equally comfortable in the halls of Congress as in his Baltimore neighborhood.

“For him, it was one world,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson told WTOP. “You represent the people you live among. You represent the people that you go to church with. You represent the people you care most about. So when he arrived in Washington, D.C., in the Capitol, he was bringing all of the concern and the wisdom from the district that he represented. And for that, he was an effective representative, not only for the district but for United States citizens across the country.”

Former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who chaired the House Benghazi and Oversight committees, frequently sparred with Cummings. On Twitter Thursday, Gowdy called Cummings “one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics,” whose authenticity and sincerely held beliefs were an inspiration.

The son of a sharecropper who became a civil rights champion

Born Jan. 18, 1951, the son of a sharecropper, Cummings went to Howard University in D.C. and then to the University of Maryland School of Law, his official biography said.

Cummings rose though the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before he won the 7th District congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.

Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He believed in much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs to reduce the spread of AIDS.

In addition to the House oversight committee, Cummings was a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

His biography also said he was an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church.

Cummings had not returned to work since recently having a medical procedure that he said would only keep him away for about a week.

Two years ago he was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital after undergoing a transarterial aortic valve replacement to correct the narrowing of his aortic valve.

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller and Jack Moore and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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