Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, a prominent civil rights activist, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and key figure in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, died on Thursday from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” according to a statement issued by his office. He was 68.
Cummings has been a representative of Maryland’s 7th Congressional District since 1996. During his time in the House of Delegates, he was the first African American from Maryland to be named Speaker Pro Tem and the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
In addition to his work investigating the impeachment inquiry, Cummings has also been a vocal advocate for children and families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. His committee was heavily involved in the Michael Cohen hearing in February.
His scrutiny of Trump extended to the president’s family as the congressman led probes on his family members serving in the White House.
Cummings was Hillary Clinton’s chief defender in the 2015 Benghazi hearings. That same year, he marched in Baltimore in solidarity with the community after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody. He was also the co-chairman of Barack Obama’s Maryland campaign in 2008.
A native of Baltimore and the son of sharecroppers, Cummings graduated from Howard University, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and the University of Maryland School of Law. After earning his law degree, he joined a firm in Baltimore until he started his own practice. In 1982, he won the state delegate position, where he served for 14 years. In 1995, he ran for congressman in the 7th congressional district for Maryland and won.
“He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity,” tweeted Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Democratic caucus chairman and a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Thursday. “Congress has lost a Champion. Heaven has gained an Angel of Justice. May he forever #RestInPower.”
Deeply saddened by the passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings.
He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) October 17, 2019
Trump sent his “warmest condolences” in a tweet on Thursday morning.
My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
Other politicians, including the Obamas, and Hollywood figures mourned Cummings’ loss as well.
Michelle and I are heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings. May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service. pic.twitter.com/lM2rES3PNV
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 17, 2019
Karen and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings. I was honored to serve in the House with him and we are praying for his family during this difficult time.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 17, 2019
The House has lost our North Star. Chairman Elijah Cummings was a leader of towering character & integrity. His wisdom, his warm friendship and his great humanity will be deeply missed. Rest in peace, my friend. https://t.co/WP0830KCkV pic.twitter.com/Hx8RFIWFPC
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) 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
A devastating loss for our country.
Chairman Cummings was a giant: a universally respected leader who brought profound insight, commitment, and moral fortitude to Congress.
His guidance and vision was an enormous gift. I will forever cherish his example. May he rest in power. https://t.co/D0RsKsM5fh
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 17, 2019
The American people have lost a great leader at a time of crisis in our democracy. Chairman Elijah Cummings gave all he had. He dedicated his entire life to serving the public good. https://t.co/g54fqjRaZH
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) October 17, 2019
The City of Baltimore and the people of this nation awake today to the loss of a giant amongst men. Elijah Cummings was a defender of democracy, a champion of human rights, and an unwavering advocate for equality. pic.twitter.com/oGKM1FdJlb
— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) October 17, 2019
“Did you see him? Did you see him? Our children are living messages we send to a future we’ll never see. Now, our children are sending us to a future they’ll never see. Something is wrong.” Elijah Cummings at Freddie Gray’s funeral. American patriot. May he journey well. #RIPSir pic.twitter.com/vO07p9fdcF
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 17, 2019
Love to the family and friends and constituents of the great Elijah Cummings. What a life. What a career. He worked on behalf of the people with integrity, tenacity and intelligence. The entire nation will miss his irreplaceable voice.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) October 17, 2019
Deeply saddened by the death of Elijah Cummings. We need more truly great Americans like him whose hearts & souls are in the right place. May he rest in power!!! https://t.co/aEysj5Qi1B
— Morgan J. Freeman (@mjfree) October 17, 2019
Representative Elijah Cummings was the embodiment of sagacity and goodness.
My heart goes out to his family, his friends, his colleagues, and his community.
Rest in peace. #ElijahCummings pic.twitter.com/LhXjPHr9Yh
— Carole King (@Carole_King) October 17, 2019
Saddened to hear of the passing of a great statesman that I truly admired, US Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. May he rest in power. pic.twitter.com/FhmuPO7WWw
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) October 17, 2019