(This is an exact reprint from Wikipedia.org)
Elijah Eugene Cummings (January 18, 1951 – October 17, 2019) was an American politician and civil rights advocate who served in the United States House of Representatives for Maryland’s 7th congressional district from 1996 until his death in 2019. The district includes just over half of the city of Baltimore, including most of the majority-black precincts of Baltimore County, as well as most of Howard County. He previously served in the Maryland House of Delegates. He was a member of the Democratic Party from 1996.
Cummings served in the Maryland House from 1983 through 1996. That year, he was elected to the U.S. House. Cummings served as the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform from January 2019 until his death in October of that year.
Early life, education, and career
Cummings was born on January 18, 1951, in Baltimore, son of Ruth Elma (née Cochran) and Robert Cummings. His parents were sharecroppers. He was the third child of seven. When he was 11 years old, Cummings and some friends worked to integrate a segregated swimming pool in South Baltimore.
Cummings graduated with honors from the Baltimore City College high school in 1969. He then attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he served in the student government as sophomore class president, student government treasurer and later student government president. He became a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor‘s degree in Political Science.
Cummings graduated from law school at the University of Maryland School of Law, receiving his Juris Doctor in 1976, and was admitted to the bar in Maryland later that year. He practiced law for 19 years before first being elected to the House in the 1996 elections.
Cummings received 12 honorary doctoral degrees from universities across the United States, most recently an honorary doctorate of public service from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2017.
For 14 years, Cummings served in the Maryland House of Delegates. His predecessor, Lena King Lee, raised funds and campaigned for him; years later, Cummings credited her with launching his political career. In the Maryland General Assembly, he served as Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and was the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tempore, the second highest position in the House of Delegates.
Cummings also served on several boards and commissions, both in and out of Baltimore. Those include SEED Schools of Maryland Board of Directors and the University of Maryland Law School Board of Advisors. He served on numerous Maryland boards and commissions including the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel. He was an honorary member of the Baltimore Zoo Board of Trustees.
Congressman Elijah Cummings was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
U.S. House of Representatives
- Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Chair)
- Select Committee on Benghazi (Ranking Minority Member 114th Congress)
In December 2010, Edolphus Towns announced that he would not seek the position of ranking minority member of the Oversight Committee in the next Congress, even though his seniority and service as chair would typically result in his filling this post. Reportedly, Towns withdrew because of a lack of support from Nancy Pelosi who feared that he would not be a sufficiently aggressive leader of Democrats in an anticipated struggle with incoming committee chair Republican Darrell Issa. Reportedly, the White House also wanted Towns to be replaced. Cummings defeated Carolyn Maloney in a vote of the House Democratic Caucus.
In his role as chair of the Oversight Committee, Cummings presided over the first public testimony by President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and was a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump. Carolyn Maloney was named acting chair by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and won the subsequent election in the Democratic caucus to serve as permanent chair.
- Task Force on Health Care Reform
- Co-founder and Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Drug Policy
- Congressional Arts Caucus
- Afterschool Caucuses
Cummings received praise following the congressional panel hearings on steroids in 2008. While investigating the use of steroids in sports, the panel called numerous baseball players to testify, including former single season home run record holder Mark McGwire. After McGwire answered many questions in a vague fashion, Cummings demanded to know if he was “taking the Fifth”, referring to the Fifth Amendment. McGwire responded by saying, “I am here to talk about the future, not about the past.” The exchange came to epitomize the entire inquiry.
Cummings introduced the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, a bipartisan bill signed into law by then-President Barack Obama in December 2014. The bill, which Cummings co-sponsored with Representative Darrell Issa, (R-California), is a set of amendments to the Federal Records Act and Presidential Records Act. Among other provisions, the bill modernizes the definition of a federal record to expressly include electronic documents.
He supported the Smart Savings Act, a bill that would make the default investment in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) an age-appropriate target date asset allocation investment fund (L Fund) instead of the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund). Cummings called the bill a “commonsense change” and argued that the bill “will enable workers to take full advantage of a diversified fund designed to yield higher returns”.
He introduced the All Circuit Review Extension Act, a bill that would extend for three years the authority for federal employees who appeal a judgment of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to file their appeal at any U.S. circuit court of appeals, instead of only the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Cummings said that this program is important to extend because it “allows whistleblowers to file appeals where they live rather than being limited to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals”. He also said that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has “an abysmal track record in whistleblower cases”.
In remarks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Cummings declared: “Our party does not just believe, but understands, that Black Lives Matter. But we also recognize that our community and our law enforcement work best when they work together.”
Five-term Congressman for Maryland’s 7th congressional district, Kweisi Mfume resigned in February 1996 to take the presidency of the NAACP. Cummings won a crowded seven-way Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district—with 37.5% of the vote. In the special election, he defeated Republican Kenneth Kondner with over 80 percent of the vote. He defeated Kondner again in November by a similar margin to win the seat in his own right.
He was reelected 11 more times in the contests which followed, never dropping below 69 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2006.
Cummings lived in the Madison Park community in Baltimore and was an active member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church. He married Joyce Matthews, with whom he had a daughter, Jennifer J. Cummings. He had a son and a daughter, Adia Cummings, from other relationships. He married Maya Rockeymoore Cummings in 2009, who was elected chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party in December 2018.
Cummings underwent surgery to repair his aortic valve in May 2017 and was absent from Capitol Hill for two months. In July 2017, he developed a surgery-related infection but returned to work. Cummings was later hospitalized for a knee infection.
Cummings was diagnosed with rare form of cancer called thymic carcinoma in 1994 while serving as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. It was revealed in November 2019 that Cummings had lived with the cancer for 25 years, though it was not stated as the cause of death.
Cummings died on October 17, 2019, at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 68 from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges”, his spokeswoman stated. Before his funeral service on October 25 at Baltimore’s New Psalmist Baptist Church, where he was a member for 40 years, Cummings lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall on October 24.
Cummings is the first African American lawmaker to achieve the honor of lying in state at the nation’s Capitol. The last people to lie in state were former President George H. W. Bush in December and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Following a state funeral which was attended by family and members of Congress, thousands of public mourners were seen entering the U.S. Capitol to see his casket and received greetings from his widow Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings. His casket departed from the U.S. Capitol at around 8:35 pm.
On October 25, 2019, the official funeral for Cummings was held at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore and was attended by members of his family, various political figures. This included former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden along with politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.