Rep. Cummings remembered as ‘fierce champion’
First African-American lawmaker to lie in state at Capitol
Free Press wire reports | 10/31/2019, 6 p.m.
BALTIMORE Rep. Elijah E. Cummings was eulogized as a leader with the fiery moral conviction of an Old Testament prophet at a funeral last Friday that brought former presidents and ordinary people alike to the Baltimore church where the congressman worshipped for four decades.
“Our Elijah was a fierce champion of truth, justice and kindness in every part of his life,” said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took the stage at the New Psalmist Baptist Church to rousing applause.
Rep. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son and civil rights leader who rose to power in Washington over two decades ago with his sonorous voice and powerful oratory, died of long-standing health problems Oct. 17, 2019, at age 68 while locked in political combat with President Trump.
The Baltimore Democrat, who had served since January as chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, led multiple investigations of the president, who recently lashed out at Rep. Cummings’ district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
Eulogies offered during the service drew an implicit contrast between Rep. Cummings’ upstanding ways and President Trump.
“There’s nothing weak about looking out for others. You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect, former President Obama said during the service.
President Obama recalled Rep. Cummings’ humble beginnings, saying, “His life validates the things we tell ourselves about what’s possible in this country, not guaranteed, but possible.
In what sounded like a reference to the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, former President Clinton told the crowd, “We all know now that, at least until certain things happen, his legacy is how ardently he honored his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“He knew that without the Constitution, the laws that were passed under it, the rights that were guaranteed by it and the abuses it was designed to prevent ... he would not have been in Congress,” President Clinton said. “And so he said to himself, ‘I am certain every day, I will not let this promise be sullied.’ ”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who as Democratic leader is overseeing the impeachment drive, took note in her eulogy of the bipartisan crowd at the church and said Rep. Cummings had the ability to work with both his fellow Democrats and with Republicans.
“Our Elijah always made a seat at the table for others,” she said.
Rep. Cummings’s widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, told the crowd that President Trump’s recent jabs hurt her husband. Without mentioning the president by name, she said her husband’s job became “infinitely more difficult in the last months of his life when he sustained personal attacks and attacks on his beloved city.” “While he carried himself with grace and dignity in all public forums, it hurt him,” she said.
President Trump, who was in South Carolina on Friday, offered his condolences to the Cummings family during a speech and recalled the congressman’s “very strong passion” for lowering prescription drug prices, adding, “We’re going to get it done.”
At the church, gospel and R&B singer BeBe Winans, a favorite of Rep. Cummings, performed “Stand” as mourners sang along, stood and raised their hands. Many wiped away tears. Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts recited the 23rd Psalm.
“It is no coincidence — is it? — that Elijah Cummings shared a name with an Old Testament prophet,” Mrs. Clinton told the crowd. “Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven. But he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes but never lost his faith.”
Several hundred people had lined up outside before dawn, waiting for the doors to open so they could pay their final respects to Rep. Cummings, who lay in an open casket in the grand, 4,000-seat sanctuary.
“I felt like it was my civic duty, my responsibility to come and pay respects to a man who has done so much for Baltimore city, so much for the people, trying to keep us together,” said the Rev. Jacqueline Williams, 67, of Baltimore, as she waited in line.
On Thursday, Oct. 24, Rep. Cummings became the first African-American lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.
Bobby Trotter, a 67-year-old Baltimore resident who lives just outside Rep. Cummings’ district, recalled how the congressman helped quell tensions in the city after the rioting that erupted in 2015 over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a spinal injury and died during a jolting ride in a police van.
Rep. Cummings “believed in helping people, particularly people that were downtrodden. He stood up. He spoke for them,” Mr. Trotter said.
Burial for Rep. Cummings was private.