‘Moral Clarity and Political Courage’: How Elijah Cummings Is Being Remembered


U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, chairs a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Feb. 27, 2019. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Updated at 3:41 p.m.

The legal community was mourning Thursday over the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the longtime Maryland Democrat and stalwart civil rights defender who more recently had played a leading role in overseeing investigations of the Trump administration. Cummings was 68.

He died from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” according to a statement from his office.

Cummings, a Baltimore native and 1976 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, had spent decades in public service. He was first elected to the U.S. House in 1996.

Cummings has been a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, and he was a key figure in the House’s push to impeach the president. He chaired the Oversight and Reform Committee after Democrats won control of the House last year.

Here’s some of what legal scholars, lawmakers, civil rights leaders and others are saying about Cummings’ legacy:

>> Loretta Lynch, Paul Weiss partner and former Obama-era U.S. attorney general: “Congressman Elijah Cummings was a true champion for justice and for all those who felt left out and left behind. He believed in the inherent dignity and equality of every soul. His greatest wish was that the promise of America be made real for all Americans. I am deeply saddened by his passing, and the country is much poorer for his loss.”

>> Elizabeth Goitein, Brennan Center for Justice: “The country has lost a great public servant and a great man. Rest in peace, Elijah Cummings. You did your part and more.”

>> Hillary Clinton: “America lost a giant with the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, a man of principle who championed truth, justice and kindness. He fiercely loved his country and the people he served. Rest In Peace, my friend.”

>> Donald Tobin, dean of the University of Maryland Cary School of Law: “One of the things that was really important about him, he cared about people who others left behind. That really, captures his mission and his attitude. He recognized that we as a country could not be our best if we ignored the people who are hurting all around us. He had this strong ability to capture people, to motivate people. You wanted to be your best because you wanted to live up to his expectations of you.”

Katie Porter Representative Katie Porter, D-California. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM)

>> U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-California: “Rep. Cummings embodied some of our nation’s most cherished ideals with his moral clarity and political courage. I’m so fortunate to have had the chance, albeit brief, to serve with him in the House. My thoughts are with his family as we all mourn the loss of one of our best.”

>> U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Elijah Cummings, a man of great consequence and significance on the Oversight Committee for the last twenty years. As Ranking Member and then as Chairman, he injected an unyielding passion and purpose into his work on the Committee.”

>> U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York: “Such sad news this morning. @RepCummings was my friend and a giant of public service and the U.S. Congress. His presence, passion and moral clarity will be missed and my heart goes out to his family and constituents.”

>> Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “I will never forget @RepCummings walking on the streets of the western district of Baltimore to keep the peace after Freddie Gray died. Locking arms with community leaders for the city he loved so much. Calling for reform and being a stalwart for justice.”

Sherrilyn Ifill. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

>> Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund: “I want to tell you—and I want you to believe me—that you just do not know what a powerful loss this is for us all. The leadership #ElijahCummings practiced was remarkable and special. In these times, especially, we must really pause & respect the passing of great people.”

>> Spencer Overton, George Washington University law professor: “Congressman Cummings embodied the best in leadership in our nation. He was smart, thoughtful, and committed to facts and democratic values—he steered national policy debates and he defended constitutional principles. He was also committed to inclusion and opportunity—he had a common touch that gave voice to Americans from some of the most marginalized communities in our nation, and he also worked effectively with Americans from all racial, religious, and political backgrounds. Congressman Cummings was selfless—he always focused on service to others—to Baltimore, to Black communities nationwide, to our nation, and to future generations.”





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