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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.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings was eulogized as a leader with the fiery moral conviction of an Old Testament prophet at ...
Former President Obama was among the many speakers at the funeral on Oct. 25 for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore. Julio Cortez/Associated Press pool

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.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings enters the sanctuary of New Psalmist Baptist Church for the funeral of her husband, the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings enters the sanctuary of New Psalmist Baptist Church for the funeral of her husband, the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.

“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.

Jennifer Cummings, left, applauds in response to remarks by her sister, Adia Cummings, during the funeral of their father, Rep. Cummings.

Jennifer Cummings, left, applauds in response to remarks by her sister, Adia Cummings, during the funeral of their father, Rep. Cummings.

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.”