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Rep. Elijah Cummings, Key Figure In Trump Investigations, Dies At 68

10/17/2019, 9:02 a.m.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a longtime Maryland Democrat and key figure leading investigations into President Donald Trump, has died at age ...
Rep. Elijiah Cummings of Maryland represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District since 1996 and served as the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

— In another high-profile moment earlier this year, Cummings stood up for Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, one of the President's closest allies and staunchest defenders in Congress, in the face of accusations of racism. The chairman referred to Meadows as one of his "best friends." When Meadows learned of Cummings' passing Thursday, he said he was "truly heartbroken."

"I have no other words to express the loss," he told CNN's Dana Bash.

Leading African American voice on Capitol Hill

Cummings, who grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, had become a leading voice among African American lawmakers on Capitol Hill at the time of his passing, and his death triggered an outpouring of grief from his colleagues.

"He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Democratic caucus chairman and a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, tweeted Thursday morning. "Congress has lost a Champion. Heaven has gained an Angel of Justice. May he forever #RestInPower."

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler called Cummings a "giant of public service," and Sen. Ben Cardin said his fellow Marylander "guaranteed a voice to so many who would otherwise not have one."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN's John Berman on "New Day" that Cummings was "a mentor and someone who in every situation would do the right thing, would put his community and the cause above everything else. Including himself."

The Florida Democrat said watching Cummings continue with his duties despite his health struggles was inspirational.

"We'll walk in his shadow, in his shoes that will never be filled," she said.

Veteran of Civil Rights Movement

Earlier this year, Cummings discussed how, even at a young age, he faced racial violence in trying to integrate parts of his neighborhood.

"We were trying to integrate an Olympic-size pool near my house, and we had been constrained to a wading pool in the black community," Cummings told ABC's "This Week" in July. "As we tried to march to that pool over six days, I was beaten, all kinds of rocks and bottles thrown at me."

Cummings said Trump's racist remarks against four minority members of Congress echoed the same insults he heard as a 12-year-old boy in 1962, which he said were "very painful."

"The interesting thing is that I heard the same chants. 'Go home. You don't belong here,' " he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "And they called us the N-word over and over again."

Cummings was born and raised in Baltimore -- the city that is home to his district. The son of former sharecroppers, Cummings was born in 1951 and graduated from Baltimore City College High School in 1969.

He practiced law and served for 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, where, according to his congressional website, he became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem.

In 1996, he was first elected to the US Congress. Cummings was reelected last year in the 7th Congressional District with 76% of the vote.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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