Humble. Talented. Dedicated. Just three of the many words that can be used to describe the always immaculately dressed Vernon LaFrancis Simms, former Chief of Staff to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings. Simms, 64, passed away on July 16, 2022. At the time of his passing, Simms was the Director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations where he was responsible for promoting and strengthening the Smithsonian’s relationship with Congress, the executive branch, and federal, state, and local governments.
A memorial service for Simms will be held on Saturday, July 30, 2022 at the Vaughn Greene Randallstown Chapel, 8728 Liberty Road, Randallstown, Maryland where the family will receive friends from 2:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. with services to follow.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D), succeeded Cummings in Baltimore’s District 7. Before working in Congressman Cummings’ office, Simms had been a special assistant for government and community operations for Congressman Mfume. Collectively, Simms worked for the two political giants for three decades. Simms was considered a ‘giant’ in his own right.
“It was devastating to hear of the passing of my friend and former colleague Vernon Simms, who passed on from this life after a long and heroic battle with illness,” said Congressman Mfume. “For more than two decades, Vernon served as chief of staff to my dear friend, the late Congressman Elijah Cummings. He was renowned for his work on Capitol Hill, toiling day in and day out on behalf of the constituents of Maryland’s 7th Congressional District he held so dearly and in such high regard. Prior to his stint with Congressman Cummings’ staff, Vernon was the special assistant for government and community operations on my congressional team. I had unwavering confidence in him because of his selflessness, diligence, and kindness.”
He continued, “And since 2020, Vernon has been a leader within the Smithsonian as the director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations, a role where he utilized his full skillset of intergovernmental communication and collaboration to bolster the institution. To Linda, his wife of thirty years, as well as to his children, grandchildren, and other family members, I offer my deepest condolences. Your loss is shared by so many friends, colleagues, and others who, like myself, loved and respected Vernon and the simple eloquence of his example. It was, and remains, an example of class, courtesy and caring.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) also shared fond memories of Simms.
“Vernon was a true public servant; after his time on Capitol Hill came to an end, he became Director of Government Relations for the Smithsonian Institution,” said Hoyer. “I join in extending my condolences to his wife Linda, with whom he shared three decades of partnership, as well as his children Erin, Candace, and Kyle and their families. Vernon leaves behind so many friends, colleagues, and community members whose lives he touched, and the impact of his work undoubtedly has made Maryland and our country a better place.”
Early in his career, Simms was a paralegal with the law firm Singleton, Dashiell and Robinson, attorneys in Baltimore. He also served as the Executive Director of the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association in Baltimore.
Vaile Leonard, Founder of Light of Truth Center, Inc., (LTC), is a relative of Simms said, “You know how you have that one family member who everyone talks about, but not in a good way?
Then you have that one family member that everyone looks up to and aspires to be like. Well, that’s my cousin Vernon. A dedicated family man and community activist who was willing and committed to making a difference. That’s Vernon. A man among men!”
Anthony McCarthy, who served as Communications Director for the late Congressman Cummings, often worked alongside Simms.
“I was very sad when I heard of Vernon’s passing,” said McCarthy. “He demanded that I be the best that I could be. The lessons that Vernon and Elijah taught me served me well throughout my entire professional career. Vernon was so humble. But you automatically gave him respect. We saw him day in and day out doing his job and really teaching us to look out for Congressman Cummings and to anticipate what the Congressman needed.”
He added, “When he went to the Smithsonian the latter part of his career, I would just marvel at watching him operate in government for an institution like the Smithsonian. I remember thinking, ‘whoever chose Vernon to work at the Smithsonian made a great decision.’ He was so good at what he did. He was the definition of public servant. I really admired him and will miss him tremendously.”