The United States lost a giant of the Congress, an elemental force for good, and a genuine American hero with the death of Representative Elijah Cummings early this morning. The Maryland Democrat was 68 when he passed away from ongoing health complications at John Hopkins Hospital.
Cummings served his country up until the end, and spent his last years as the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, working to hold President Trump accountable and curtail his destructive agenda wherever possible. He was one of three Democratic chairmen spearheading the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
While this valiant and necessary service defined in some part his final years, it is far from the defining feature of his life. Cummings devotedly served his Congressional district for 23 years, building a reputation for courage in the face of power and a genuine compassion and desire to improve the lives of his constituents. His legacy will echo for generations and he stands as a testament to what brave, honorable men and women can accomplish when they harness the levers of government to help their fellow Americans.
There has been an overwhelming outpouring of heartfelt sentiments in the wake of Cummings’s death. He was loved by many and respected even by his avowed political opponents, as sure a sign as any that he lived a full, powerful life.
Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter to say that he and former First Lady Michelle are heartbroken by the news and to share his belief that Cummings’s life will inspire Americans to follow his example.
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
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi mourned Cummings, calling him “our North Star,” a beautiful, succinct encapsulation of what he meant to so many of us.
The House has lost our North Star. Chairman Elijah Cummings was a leader of towering character & integrity. His wisdom, his warm friendship and his great humanity will be deeply missed. Rest in peace, my friend. https://t.co/WP0830KCkV pic.twitter.com/Hx8RFIWFPC
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 17, 2019
Numerous Democratic candidates for president also shared their feelings about Cummings and while they varied in style and content, they all relayed a deep sense of loss as well as a sincere appreciation for the beloved Congressman and his work.
Rep. Elijah Cummings was a giant in the House, an unwavering champion for his district and all Americans, and a dear friend. My heart goes out to his wife Maya and his family.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 17, 2019
Good people everywhere will miss his rumbling voice, his kind heart, and his deep conviction that every human being has worth. Rest in power, Elijah.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 17, 2019
Elijah Cummings was a true public servant, his life defined by the love of his community and a fierce commitment to ensuring truth wins over power. The whole Biden family sends our condolences to his wife, Maya, his children, and the entire city of Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/jYbvQwZI1a
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 17, 2019
We lost a giant today. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a fearless leader, a protector of democracy, and a fighter for the people of Maryland. Our world is dimmer without him in it.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 17, 2019
“I want justice, oceans of it. I want fairness, rivers of it. That’s what I want.” —@RepCummings, a man of courage and faith
My deepest sympathies are with the Cummings family and his community. Let us honor him by insisting on justice and integrity in leadership, as he did.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) October 17, 2019
It was my honor to work closely with Rep. Elijah Cummings over the years. His integrity and moral vision for his community and the country were extraordinary. He will be sorely missed. Jane and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend. Our thoughts are with his family.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 17, 2019
Today our country lost a true leader. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a friend, a passionate fighter for justice, and a powerful voice of moral conscience in our government who served his country for decades with dignity and integrity. I’m blessed to have known him. #RIPElijah
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) October 17, 2019
The four Congresswomen affectionately referred to as the “Squad” shared some moving tributes to Cummings.
Our Chairman leaves behind a beautiful and powerful legacy. I am already feeling the impact of a little less grace in the world. Deep gratitude to have spent these early months in Congress guided by his wisdom. Rest in power @RepCummings pic.twitter.com/n4ekGvhAVx
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) October 17, 2019
A devastating loss for our country.
Chairman Cummings was a giant: a universally respected leader who brought profound insight, commitment, and moral fortitude to Congress.
His guidance and vision was an enormous gift. I will forever cherish his example. May he rest in power. https://t.co/D0RsKsM5fh
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 17, 2019
I am simply devastated and shocked by the loss of Chairman Elijah Cummings. Elijah was a fierce champion of justice, a moral leader in the House, and a wonderful mentor to me as a new Member of Congress.
Holding his entire family in my heart today.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 17, 2019
I already miss him. He believed in the possibility of better from this institution. He understood that our squad was big & embraced the presence of a new era of social justice. I will always remember him as my Chairman. His presence was iconic & I'm humbled I got to serve w/ him. https://t.co/Cn3T6B6kAu
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) October 17, 2019
Even some of Cummings’s Republican counterparts felt the need to honor his memory.
My condolences to the family of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland who went to be with the Lord early this morning at 68 years of age.
May God grant his family strength & peace in these difficult moments & his soul eternal rest.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 17, 2019
Elijah Cummings and the journey he forged was among the most remarkable and consequential. His whole life, he worked to right injustices present in communities across the country. Judy and I pray for his family and all who were touched by Elijah throughout his incredible life.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 17, 2019
President Trump tweeted out “condolences” as well, though one questions whether or not he wrote the tweet himself giving some of the shameful things he’s said about Cummings in the past. In any case, you can rest assured that long after the name of Donald Trump has receded into the dark corners of our history books that of Elijah Cummings will remain illuminated like a beacon, gesturing us towards a brighter, more just future.
My warmest 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. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
Rob Haffey can be found on Twitter here.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.