Patterico's Pontifications


Rep. Elijah Cummings Dead at 68

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:52 am

[guest post by Dana]

From the Baltimore Sun:

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, a committee chairman known for his devotion to Baltimore and civil rights and for blunt and passionate speechmaking, died of longstanding health problems early Thursday morning, his office said. He was 68 years old.

The Democrat, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, died at Gilchrist Hospice Care at approximately 2:45 A.M., a spokeswoman said.

Cummings, who had been absent from Capitol Hill in recent weeks while under medical attention, had health issues in recent years. In 2017, he underwent an aortic valve replacement. The procedure, which aides described as minimally invasive in Cummings’ case, is used to correct narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart. The surgery led to an infection that kept him in the hospital longer than expected. He was later hospitalized for a knee infection, but he said this summer that his health was fine.

Cummings had not participated in a roll call vote since Sept. 11. His office said recently that he had undergone a medical procedure but the seriousness of his condition had not been known.

From an early age, Cummings admirably exampled how to overcome life’s difficult obstacles through sheer determination and a willingness to do the necessary hard work:

Cummings was born Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.

“I was devastated,” Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before winning his seat in Congress. “My whole life changed. I became very determined.”

It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983. He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem.


Cummings began his long push for civil rights at age 11, when he helped integrate a local swimming pool in Baltimore. This year, during a speech to the American Bar Association in April, Cummings recalled how he and other black children who were barred from the pool organized protests with help from their recreation leader and the NAACP.

Every day for a week, when the children tried to get into the pool, they were spit upon, threatened and called names, Cummings said; he said he was cut by a bottle thrown from an angry crowd.

“The experience transformed my entire life,” he said.

Note: Per House rules, Rep. Carolyn Maloney will become the Acting Chair of the House Oversight committee, which is involved in the impeachment inquiry of Trump. Also, per a senior Democratic leadership aide, “the caucus process to elect a permanent Chair will be announced at a later time.”

I want to leave you with this absolutely lovely tribute to Cummings by Trey Gowdy. At the end of the day, and politics aside, we should all be so fortunate to have someone think so highly of us and the life we’ve lead:

Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics. The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs. We rarely agreed on political matters.

We never had a cross word outside of a committee room. He had a unique ability to separate the personal from the work. The story of Elijah’s life would benefit everyone, regardless of political ideation.
The obstacles, barriers, and roadblocks he overcame, the external and sometimes internal doubt that whispered in the ear of a young Elijah Cummings. He beat it all. He beat the odds.

He beat the low expectations of that former school employee who told Elijah to abandon the dream of being a lawyer, that he would never become a lawyer, to settle for a job with his hands and not his mind.

Elijah loved telling that story because that school employee wound up being Elijah’s first client as a lawyer. We live in an age where we see people on television a couple of times and we think we know them and what they are about.

It is true Elijah was a proud progressive with a booming, melodious voice who found himself in the middle of most major political stories over the past decade. It is inescapable that be part of his legacy.

But his legacy also includes the path he took to become one of the most powerful political figures of his time. It is a path filled with pain, prejudice, obstacles and doubt that he refused to let stop him. His legacy is perseverance. His legacy is fighting through the pain.

His legacy is making sure there were fewer obstacles for the next Elijah Cummings. His legacy to me, above all else, was his faith. A faith in God that is being rewarded today with no more fights, no more battles, and no more pain.

Condolences to the family and friends of Elijah Cummings.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


5 Responses to “Rep. Elijah Cummings Dead at 68”

  1. The promise fulfilled:

    A faith in God that is being rewarded today with no more fights, no more battles, and no more pain.

    Dana (05f22b)

  2. I’m glad you didn’t quote all the NYT’s obit which was a disgrace. Cummings seemed like an OK guy, and its admirable the way he worked his way from Poverty to a powerful congressman.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  3. To his eternal credit, it doesn’t seem as if he made a habit out of ripping off the public treasury or extorting money from private enterprise. May he rest in peace.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  4. RIP. I like this part of the story:

    He beat the low expectations of that former school employee who told Elijah to abandon the dream of being a lawyer, that he would never become a lawyer, to settle for a job with his hands and not his mind.

    – with one qualifier: Let’s not disparage working with one’s hands, which do interact with the brain, and working with one’s hands isn’t necessarily mindless. Consider what David Esterly’s hands have done, e.g. Or any skilled surgeon, or a good dentist.

    Radegunda (05af0f)

  5. It’s difficult to improve on Mr. Gowdy’s statement.

    John B Boddie (31ccf0)

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