Representative Elijah Cummings, of Baltimore, a U.S. civil rights icon who played a key role in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, passed away early Thursday at the age of 68, according to a statement released by his office.
Cummings died at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said. He hadn’t returned to work following a medical procedure that he said would stop him from working for only a week, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The Baltimore-area Democrat represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for 23 years and then served as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is the main investigative committee of the U.S. House, after taking office in January.
Between January 1983 – January 1996, he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from the 39th district.
He was one of three committee leaders guiding House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump, together with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.
In honor of Cummings, his office at the Capitol and his seat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee were draped in black, while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff.
In her statement, Pelosi called the late politician “our North Star” in the House. “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,” she said.
Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on the sad news about Cummings, as well, saying he and Michelle Obama were “heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings.”
“Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most. May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service, Obama said.
Michelle and I are heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings. May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service. pic.twitter.com/lM2rES3PNV
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 17, 2019
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a leading civil rights organization, also released a statement:
“The NAACP mourns the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings — a resounding civil rights icon that prevailed in the face of adversity against all odds. As a statesman devoted to Baltimore and the civil rights movement, Congressman Cummings was among the most passionate and spirited members of Congress. He demanded justice on every front and never shied away from standing up for the most vulnerable.”
“From his days in the Maryland General Assembly to his tenure as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Congressman Cummings dedicated his life to combating oppression in all its forms — and holding oppressors accountable.”
“Congressman Cummings consistently brought attention to the plight of African-Americans and oppressed populations throughout his 23-year service in the U.S. House of Representatives. A native and proud member of the Baltimore community, he consistently took action on policies and legislation that improved his district. We are deeply saddened by his passing, but profoundly grateful for the contributions he made in his lifetime.”
“The NAACP extends our sincere condolences to his family and sends prayers of comfort and strength for the days to come.”