Elijah Cummings, the chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and a longtime Democratic member from Baltimore, has died at age 68.
The son of sharecroppers, Cummings rose to become one of the most prominent Democratic members of the House. A former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was known for his dedication to civil rights and his dogged tenacity in his role on the House Oversight Committee.
Flags on Capitol Hill will fly at half-staff to honor Cummings, per House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s orders, her spokesperson said.
“In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday. “His principled leadership as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.”
Although the oversight committee is one of the panels in the current impeachment probe investigating President Donald Trump and it was active in investigating the Trump administration well before impeachment, Cummings would frequently go out of his way to inform reporters of the committee’s other work, including its focus on combating the opioid crisis.
Cummings died while at Gilchrist Hospice Care — an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Medicine, according to an obituary in the Baltimore Sun, his hometown paper. Cummings’s office recently told the Sun the Congress member had undergone a medical procedure, but the severity of his medical condition was not public knowledge.
According to the Sun, Cummings had not been present on Capitol Hill for a roll call vote since September 11. However, he had been active in the committee’s work on the impeachment inquiry; Cummings had sent out subpoenas to the White House as recently as early October.
“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,” Cummings’s widow Maya Rockeymoore Cummings said in a statement.
Cummings’s death is sure to be a blow to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, many of whom counted him as a friend.
“I was shocked and saddened to learn the news this morning of my dear friend’s passing,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a member of the Maryland delegation. “Elijah Cummings was a man of principle, patriotism, and conviction, whose loss will be deeply felt throughout the State of Maryland and our country. He taught his colleagues how to persevere in the face of adversity, laboring through health challenges in recent years out of a love for serving his constituents and country.”
Democrats were not the only ones grieving on Thursday morning. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said on Twitter he would miss Cummings “dearly.”
There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff—please pray for them.— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) October 17, 2019
I will miss him dearly.
President Donald Trump, who targeted Cummings on Twitter earlier this year and once called the committee chair “racist,” also tweeted his condolences Thursday morning. “I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader,” Trump said.
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
Details about Cummings’s funeral services have not yet been provided.