A Man of Passion, Commitment, and Honor
By W. McNair
The recent passing of Elijah E. Cummings (January 18, 1951 - October 17, 2019) caused people to pause, lay aside biases, and focus on celebrating the life and legacy of this American politician and civil rights activist. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for District 7 in Maryland from 1996 until 2019. Although many may not have known about his accomplishments, most have been affected by him in one way or another.
The Honorable Elijah Cummings served over half of the city of Baltimore and most of Howard County's predominately black citizens. He was a beloved advocate for his city for over 20 years and fought for the rights and liberties of the underserved. Cummings was one who did not just "talk the talk," but he definitively "walked the walk." He would march with the citizens protesting discriminatory practices, shed tears over the injustices of young lives lost, and passionately voice his views as chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Prior to his funeral, he was the first African American lawmaker to receive the honor of lying in state, which is a state funeral offered by the Federal government to former and current Presidents of the United States and those who have demonstrated distinguished service to the country. On October 24th his casket was viewed by the public in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The funeral for The Honorable Elijah Cummings was held on Friday, October 25, 2019 at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland where he had been a member for 40 years. Former presidents, political dignitaries, mentees, family, and a host of friends filled the sanctuary to celebrate his amazing life; he was born to sharecroppers and rose to the United States Congress.
After giving her condolences to Cumming's family, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began speaking about the legacy that he would leave by comparing him to Elijah in the Bible. "Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven -- but he also prayed and worked for healing," she said. After a thunderous applause, Clinton then added, "Like that Old Testament prophet, he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel." Continuing to honor his legacy, she stated, "Our Elijah was a fierce champion for truth, justice and kindness in every part of his life." Clinton also said of the congressman, "His integrity and character, his can-do spirit made him a guiding light in the Congress. He pushed back against the abuse of power; he was unwavering in his defense of our democracy."
Former President Bill Clinton expressed his sincere love for Cummings when he stated, “I loved this man. I loved every minute I ever spent with him, every conversation we ever had.” He also told how Cummings invited him to New Psalmist Baptist Church just before his presidential election. Even though his staff tried to discourage the visit due to his busy schedule, Mr. Clinton decided to attend--a decision he never regretted. “We should hear him now in the quiet times at night and in the morning when we need courage, when we get discouraged and we don’t know if we can believe anymore,” Clinton stated.
Although he will be greatly missed among his colleagues, in his community, and around the world, let us not forget to model his characteristics of integrity and respect for all people. He was known to cross party lines, which was shown by the number of Republicans who spoke so well of him. As Former President Barack Obama said during his eulogistic remarks, that while hearing Cummings' daughters speak at the funeral, "I was thinking I'd want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I'd also want them to know that being a strong man also means being kind, that there's nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There's nothing weak about looking out for others. There's nothing weak about being honorable. You're not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect."