Long-serving Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings died overnight at the age of 68.
The Maryland Democrat and powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee passed away at approximately 2:45 a.m. Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital from complications stemming from longstanding health challenges, according to his congressional office.
Representing Maryland’s 7th congressional district since 1996, Cummings also led his congressional committee in multiple investigations into President Donald Trump and his family members. He missed one of the committee hearings last month after undergoing a medical procedure on Sept. 19.
He was expected to return to work once Congress returned to session following a recess.
“I was very disappointed to miss today’s hearing,” Cummings said in a statement released by his office at the time. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to have a medical procedure, and my doctors expect me to be back in the office in a week or so. However, nobody should mistake my absence as a lack of commitment to D.C. to statehood or passage of H.R. 51.”
The Democrat frequently sparred with Trump and Republicans, most recently getting into a war of words with the president who criticized his district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
The president’s fiery rebuke of Cummings sparked a meltdown from the left, bringing much-needed attention to the city’s shameful conditions under decades of Democratic leadership. Trump slammed Cummings for his vocal attacks on the administration and immigration officials while apparently ignoring the failures in his own Maryland district.
The congressman always staunchly defended his record of advocating for the poor in his district, which includes a large portion of Baltimore.
The son of a sharecropper, Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951 and won his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 after spending years working his way up through the Maryland House of Delegates.
He chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004 and was known for speaking powerfully on the challenges and needs facing inner-city residents. He reportedly dreamt of becoming a lawyer when he was younger but went on to many other accomplishments as a lawmaker, entering the office in 1983.
Cummings was the first black delegate to hold the position of House speaker pro tempore in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he also became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. In the U.S. Congress, Cummings became the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee in 2016 where he famously sparred with Chairman Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican, after he interrogated Hillary Clinton.
Though Cummings was a powerful voice for Democrats and their issues as well as a vocal opponent of Trump’s, his long career and principled stand on many highly-charged issues over the years earned him the respect of many on both sides of the political aisle.
Many expressed their condolences on Twitter as news of Cummings’ death broke Thursday morning.
My condolences to the family of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland who went to be with the Lord early this morning at 68 years of age.
May God grant his family strength & peace in these difficult moments & his soul eternal rest.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 17, 2019
My heart is saddened at the loss of a colleague and friend. Elijah cared deeply about public service and the importance of “representing your people”. Rest In Peace good and faithful servant. https://t.co/T7JfnyZnXY
— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) October 17, 2019
Due to the loss of our dear colleague Chairman Elijah Cummings, today’s previously scheduled press conference has been postponed. Many are in mourning and we hope that peace and comfort can enter the hearts of those who cared for Elijah. #RIP
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) October 17, 2019
Extremely sad to hear this news. Elijah Cummings was a fierce champion of civil rights and a dedicated public servant. It was my good fortune to know him as a friend. My prayers are with his loved ones and the city of Baltimore. https://t.co/GJTPD80uJI
— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) October 17, 2019
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.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 17, 2019
We lost a true American patriot today in Rep Elijah Cummings. His decades of service to the American people will never be forgotten. He is a true American hero who will be dearly missed. A freedom fighter and true American hero. Rest in Power, and Rest In Peace.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) October 17, 2019
Tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Elijah Cummings. This is a loss for Baltimore, Congress, and the country.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 17, 2019
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