Rep. Elijah Cummings: 5 things to know

Long-time Maryland U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings died in hospice care Thursday morning. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland's 7th Congressional District, the 68-year-old was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement.

>> Read more trending news

Here are five things to know about the late congressman.

Baltimore born and raised

Cummings was born in Baltimore on Jan. 18, 1951, to Ruth Elma Cochran Cummings and Robert Cummings Sr. His parents were former sharecroppers who moved from South Carolina to Maryland, The New York Times reported.

Ruth Elma Cochran Cummings worked as a housekeeper and later founded Victory Prayer Chapel in Baltimore. She died at age 91 in 2018. Robert Cummings worked at the chemical company W.R. Grace for 42 years, retiring in 1989. He died in 2000 at age 74.

"Both of my parents emphasized education because they had been deprived of one," Cummings said. "My dad was pulled out of school at an early age to plow the fields and pick strawberries."

Early civil rights activist

The Associated Press reported Cummings' activism began at an early age. When he was 11, he helped integrate a swimming pool when he and other black children organized protests with the help of a recreation leader and the NAACP.

In 2014, he joined fellow congressional staffers and staged a walkout on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in protest of the Mike Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.

In 2015, he grabbed a bullhorn and encouraged street protesters to respect the curfew and go home in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, who died in a hospital of neck injuries suffered while in custody of Baltimore police. He also spoke at Gray's April 2015 funeral, saying, "We will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done."

Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Private attorney

Cummings attended the public magnet high school Baltimore City College and upon graduation, attended Howard University and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then attended and graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and worked in the private sector as an attorney.

He moved into public service when he was elected into the Maryland House of Delegates in the 1980s, and he served there for 14 years and became the first African American in the state's history to be named speaker pro tem.

Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Congressman of his home district

In 1996, Cummings was elected to the US House of Representatives. In his time there, he continued to serve his hometown community and advocate for civil rights, including voting rights. From 2003 to 2004, he chaired the Congressional Black Caucus.

He also was a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in addition to serving on "numerous boards and commissions," according to his official congressman biography.

Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform

Cummings was the leader of the House of Representatives' main investigative committee. In that role, his official bio stated, he worked to "identify appropriate reforms that prevent waste, fraud and abuse and that ensure government programs meet the needs of the American people."

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Perhaps most notably, Cummings frequently took President Donald Trump to task in the role, which is also in place to hold the presidential administration to high standards.

"When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?" he said during Michael Cohen's February 2019 testimony before the committee. "Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?"

About the Author