FILE - In this April 2, 2109 file photo, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., leads a meeting to call for subpoenas after a career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington. U.S. Rep. Cummings has died from complications of longtime health challenges, his office said in a statement on Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this April 2, 2109 file photo, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., leads a meeting to call for subpoenas after a career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds, on Capitol Hill in Washington. U.S. Rep. Cummings has died from complications of longtime health challenges, his office said in a statement on Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Democrat Elijah Cummings, who led Trump impeachment probe, has died

Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, died Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems. He was 68.

Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district , which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump’s family members serving in the White House.

Trump criticized the Democrat’s district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” The comments came weeks after Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic congresswomen of colour to get out of the U.S. “right now,” and go back to their “broken and crime-infested countries.”

Cummings replied that government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments” that distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.

“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behaviour,” Cummings said.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted his “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.” The brief tweet made no reference to past feuds.

Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.

Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. By 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was “nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He believed in much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle-exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.

A key figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry , Cummings had been hoping to return to Congress after a medical procedure he said would only keep him away for a week. His statement then didn’t detail the procedure. He’d previously been treated for heart and knee issues.

Cummings’ committee, authorized to investigate virtually any part of the federal government, is one of three conducting the House impeachment probe of Trump. Cummings was among the three chairmen to sign a letter seeking documents into the formal inquiry into whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the family of Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden, the former vice-president. The committees have issued subpoenas of witnesses in the face of the Trump administration’s refusal to co-operate with the impeachment probe and have jointly been meeting behind closed doors to hear testimony.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a veteran House Democrat from New York, will for now take over leadership of the House oversight committee, according to a senior Democratic leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the decision publicly.

Separately, Cummings led an effort to gain access to Trump’s financial records. His committee subpoenaed records from Mazars USA, an accounting firm that has provided services to Trump. The panel demanded documents from 2011 to 2018 as it probed Trump’s reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled the records must be turned over to the House.

Shortly after Cummings’ death, which his office said happened after 2 a.m. at Johns Hopkins Hospital, his constituents began mourning. Baltimore mayor Bernard “Jack” Young said in a statement that Cummings “wasn’t afraid to use his considerable intellect, booming voice and poetic oratory to speak out against brutal dictators bent on oppression, unscrupulous business executives who took advantage of unsuspecting customers, or even a U.S. President.”

His widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chairwoman of Maryland’s Democratic Party, said in a statement: “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.”

READ MORE: Impeachment dominates, but much other work awaits Congress

Cummings was born Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counsellor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and would never fulfil 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 counsellor 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. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.

Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.

“After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people working together, it’s clear that the lines are drawn here,” Cummings said about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.

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.

While serving in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1983 to 1996, Cummings pushed for a ban on alcohol and tobacco ads on inner-city billboards in Baltimore, leading to the first such prohibition in a large U.S. city.

Cummings then chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national spotlight.

He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was elected.

In 2015, when the death of black Baltimore resident Freddie Gray sparked the worst riots the city had seen in decades, Cummings was in the streets, carrying a bullhorn and urging crowds to go home and respect a curfew. He spoke at Gray’s funeral, asking lawmakers in the church to stand up to show Gray’s mother they would seek justice.

“I want justice, oceans of it. I want fairness, rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want,” Cummings said, quoting from the Bible.

___

Witte reported from Annapolis. Alan Fram contributed from Washington.

Brian Witte And Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Charles Hawkswell, Commander, of the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron, presents a $1,000 cheque to the Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society. File photo
Comox removing moorage fees, hydro for Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society

Last year, the unit and society responded to more than 50 rescue missions in the past year

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident north of Courtenay nets almost 10-year sentence

Richard Daniel Vigneault was arrested without incident and faced 16 counts

Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a general pathologist at the North Island Hospital Campbell River Hospital Medical Laboratory, spoke about the issue of service in the region at a meeting in February 2020. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona hospital board wants pathology service back

UPDATED: Board supports move for chair, vice-chair to engage with Island Health on issue

Danielle Egilson has been awarded a $40,000 post-secondary scholarship with The Cmolik Foundation. Photo supplied
Student from Courtenay’s Vanier Secondary lands prestigious scholarship

Cmolik Foundation provides opportunities for youth who’ve experienced adversity

Poverty is a sad reality for some people in the Comox Valley. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Project takes a hard look at poverty in the Comox Valley

Objective is to reduce poverty in the Comox Valley by 25 per cent over four years

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read