If these were normal times in America, the revered Congressman Elijah Cummings’ death and his memorial celebrations would seize the headlines, dominate the news cycle and allow for our young people to discover what a iconic civil servant he was.
However, with our nation besieged by racial, political and cultural divisions the memorial for the man saluted as “The North Star” will instead be a break from political imbroglio, but nothing can nor should it diminish the one voice on Capitol Hill that was the ultimate unifier.
Cummings was elected to The United States House of Representatives (Congress) in 1996 and was mentored by United States House Committee on Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters during a most consequential career that concluded with him being selected as the Chairman of House Reform and Oversight Committee.
After battling multiple health issues, Cummings succumbed to cancer on Oct. 17, silencing the chamber to hush tones and solemn heartbreak. He was 68.
“There are no words that are sufficient in describing the immense sorrow I feel following the passing of my dear colleague and friend, Chairman Elijah Cummings.
“I have known Chairman Cummings for more than two decades. He considered me a mentor since his time as a freshman member, and I considered him a brother and cherished friend. While there are so many fond memories that I have of Chairman Cummings, what I loved and admired most about him was his dignified and courageous leadership, and his fierce and unflinching advocacy for justice, civil rights, and equality. He loved his family, his community, and this nation deeply, and fought with ‘every breath in his body’ to protect them — no matter the cost,” Rep. Waters (D-Inglewood) released in a statement.
“There is perhaps no other Member of Congress who is so respected, admired, and loved by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as the one and only Elijah Cummings. He was a true patriot and a giant among men. His absence leaves a gaping hole in our hearts and the halls of Congress. I love him, I will miss him, and my deepest condolences and prayers are with his loving wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, his family, his beloved hometown of Baltimore, and all those who loved him.”
Cummings was a staunch believer in the Black Press and penned a biweekly column for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper
Although a staunch adversary of President Trump, Cummings met with Trump in the Oval Office to appeal for calm and unity, urging Trump tamper down on his incendiary political and personal attacks for the benefit of the nation.
In February he reintroduced The Harriet Tubman Tribute Act that directs the Secretary of the Treasury to place the likeness of Tubman on the $20 bill beginning on Jan. 1 2021.
“Too often, our nation does not do enough to honor the contributions of women in American history, especially women of color. Placing Harriet Tubman on our U.S. currency would be a fitting tribute to a woman who fought to make the values enshrined in our Constitution a reality for all Americans,” Rep. Cummings said.
Cummings began advocating for civil rights and human justice long before he was an elective public servant.
In 1962 he fought for the right for Blacks to swim at a Baltimore pool.
A native of Baltimore, Cummings (D-MD 7th District) said during a steamy, late summer 57 years ago, white mobs taunted and threw rocks and bottles at him and other African American kids seeking to integrate the Riverside Park pool in South Baltimore.
His Capitol Hill office was decorated with framed photos of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King and other prominent civil rights activists.
During a Congressional Hearing for former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen he delivered perhaps one of his most powerful prophetic orations.
“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing? …”
No one will ever be able to say that Rep. Elijah Cummings stood on the sidelines and did nothing.
Rep. Cummings will be memorialized at a number of events this week including lying in state at the National Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill, culminating with a final viewing at Cummings’ church of nearly 40 years, New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore.
He is survived by his wife of 11 years Maya Rockeymoore, daughter Jennifer J. Cummings and a host of other relatives.