Elijah E Cummings, a senior Democrat who was a key player in the Trump impeachment inquiry, has died aged 68.
Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, passed away at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital at 2.45am on Thursday, his office said.
The 13-term representative from Maryland, who has been in office since 1996, died of ‘complications concerning longstanding health challenges’.
His death comes two years after he had surgery to repair his aortic valve, and a month after he was admitted to a hospital for further treatment.
He is survived by his wife Maya Rockeymoore – who he married in 2008 – and his three children, including daughters Jennifer and Adia.
‘Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility,’ Rockeymoore said.
‘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.’
‘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 and Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris paid tribute to Cummings on Twitter, writing: ‘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.’
Rep Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) echoed Kamala’s powerful words about Cummings, writing on Twitter: ‘A Giant of integrity and knowledge has fallen. He defended the Constitution and acted with grace.’
Elijah E Cummings, a 13-term representative from Maryland who chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has died of health complications aged 68
Cummings, who had an operation to repair his aortic valve in 2017, leaves behind wife Maya Rockeymoore (pictured together in 2014) and three children
His declining health meant that he had been using a wheelchair to get around Washington and used a walker in order to stand.
When he was admitted to hospital in early September, Cummings predicted that he would be back in Washington within a week.
A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that spearheaded investigations into President Donald Trump.
He was also a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district that encompassed a large portion of Baltimore.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump’s governmental dealings – including attempts to get hold of his tax returns.
Cummings has been described by colleagues and loved ones as a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district, which included a large portion of Baltimore
Cummings, who led multiple investigations into Trump, famously got into a spat with the President who branded Baltimore ‘rat-infested’. He used a speech at the National Press Club (pictured) to call on Trump to ‘stop invoking fear’
Elijah Cummings from the US House of Representatives speaks during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston
The investigations angered the president, who went on to personally attack Cummings in July when he criticized conditions in detention centers at the US southern border.
The outraged president defended the border detention centers as ‘clean, efficient and well run, just very crowded’, and then claimed the facilities are superior to Cummings’ own district in Maryland.
‘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 & filthy place,’ Trump tweeted Saturday.
‘Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States,’ Trump wondered in another tweet.
‘No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!’
Donald Trump defended his criticism of Congressman Elijah Cummings and his district, claiming there was ‘nothing racist’ about him speaking the truth about the conditions in Baltimore, Maryland and how Cummings has dealt with it
In response to claims his comments were racist, Trump tweeted he was just ‘stating plainly what most people already know’
He said Cummings needs to focus on ‘fixing the mess’ in Baltimore instead of seeking impeachment investigations on the House Oversight Committee or criticizing the conditions at the border
Cummings responded that government officials must stop making ‘hateful, incendiary comments’ that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.
‘Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,’ Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Despite his feud with Trump, the pair only had one face-to-face meeting, according to the Baltimore Sun.
That meeting came in 2017 when Cummings was working with Trump on a plan to lower drug prices.
Cummings told the President: ‘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?’
The Oversight Committee – as the main investigative committee of the House – was one of six involved in the impeachment inquiry into Trump and was spearheading efforts to gather evidence, alongside the Intelligence Committee.
Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.
Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. And by 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was ‘nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign’ for president.
Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents.
He was a firm believer in some much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.
Cummings ran for Maryland state delegate in 1982 and won. He is pictured in 1984
Cummings was a force in Maryland politics for decades. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP. Cummings is pictured with then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s
Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. The pair are pictured together at a campaign rally in 2007
Cummings worked closely with many of the candidates now hoping to beat Trump in the 2020 presidency, including Joe Biden (left in 2003) and Elizabeth Warren (left in 2013)
Tributes to the late senator came pouring out on Thursday morning.
Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter Bernice King wrote on Twitter: ‘What a life of passionate service and courage. My heartfelt condolences to your wife, your family, the City of Baltimore, the United States and the world. Your life blessed a multitude.’
The Baltimore archdiocese tweeted that Cummings ‘generously shared his God-given gifts and talents w/the people of his beloved city, state and nation for so many years. We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.’
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served on the Oversight Committee with Cummings, called him ‘a king, principled leader’ and ‘one of my dearest friends and mentors’.
‘My heart is broken, as I weep personally and for his family and community,’ the senator wrote on Twitter. ‘Elijah Cummings’ unmatched integrity and leadership leaves a remarkable legacy.’
Cummings was born on January 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
‘I was devastated,’ Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. ‘My whole life changed. I became very determined.’
Cummings is pictured in his early 20s in 1973
It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983.
He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.
Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.
‘After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people working together, it’s clear that the lines are drawn here,’ Cummings said about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.
Cummings chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national spotlight.
He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was elected.