Elijah Cummings Biography

Elijah Cummings
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Elijah Cummings
Quick Facts

Birthday: January 18, 1951

Nationality: American

Died At Age: 68

Sun Sign: Capricorn

Also Known As: Elijah Eugene Cummings

Born Country: United States

Born in: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Famous as: Former United States Representative

Black Leaders Political Leaders

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Joyce Cummings (m. ?–1982)

father: Robert Cummings

mother: Ruth Elma (née Cochran)

siblings: James Cummings

children: Adia Cummings, Jennifer J. Cummings

Died on: October 17, 2019

place of death: The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Diseases & Disabilities: Cancer

U.S. State: Maryland, African-American From Maryland

More Facts

education: University of Maryland School of Law (1976), Howard University (1973), Baltimore City College (1969)

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Elijah Cummings was an American politician, civil rights advocate and longtime Democratic representative who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Maryland's 7th congressional district for 23 years until his death. A law graduate, he previously served 13 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and practiced for 19 years before joining active politics. He served as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, as well as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. At the time of his death in October 2019, he was serving as the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and was leading the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. He clashed heavily with the President for the latter's racist rhetoric. As a lawmaker, he focused on cutting prescription drug prices, fighting addiction, strengthening gun control and reforming the criminal justice system.

Childhood & Early Life

Elijah Eugene Cummings was born on January 18, 1951, Baltimore, Maryland, United States, as the third of seven children of Ruth Elma and Robert Cummings, both of whom previously worked as sharecroppers in South Carolina. His father was an employee at Davidson Chemical plant and his mother, a housewife, established the Victory Prayer chapel in Baltimore, which became the center of civil rights struggle in the area.

Completing school education from the Baltimore City College high school in 1969, he attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was a sophomore class president, student government treasurer and later student government president. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and earned his bachelor's degree in Political Science in 1973.

He went to study law at the University of Maryland School of Law and after receiving his Juris Doctor degree in 1976, joined the bar in Maryland later that year. He began law practice with the small Baltimore law firm of Michael A. Christianson and eventually established his own firm, Cummings and Dashiell.

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Career

While still working as an attorney, Elijah Cummings served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1983 to 1996 following a successful campaign by his predecessor Lena King Lee to launch his political career. In the Maryland General Assembly, he pushed for a ban on inner-city billboard ads of alcohol and tobacco in Baltimore, which was the first such prohibition in a large US city.

He was elected as the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland in 1984-85 after serving just one term in Annapolis. He was eventually named Speaker Pro Tempore, the second highest position in the House of Delegates, becoming the first African-American in Maryland history to hold that post.

In February 1996, he contested in the special election held in Maryland's 7th congressional district after five-term Congressman Kweisi Mfume resigned to become president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He earned 37.5% of the votes to win the twenty-seven-way Democratic primary in the black-majority district and defeated Republican candidate Kenneth Kondner in the election, gaining 80.9% of the votes.

Months later in November 1996, he secured his place in the US House of Representatives in the proper 1996 congressional election, when he defeated Kondner again with a slightly bigger margin of 83.5%. He went on to win 11 more elections until his death.

In 2002, he voted against a US military invasion of Iraq citing insufficient evidence of the country having weapons of mass destruction, which was later revealed to be true. He served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 108th United States Congress between January 2003 and January 2005.

At the 2008 congressional panel hearings on steroids, he was praised for demanding to know if witness Mark McGwire, a professional baseball player, was "taking the Fifth", i.e. protection self-incrimination, after he vaguely answered several questions.

In December 2010,after Edolphus Towns stepped down as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee despite his seniority, Cummings defeated Carolyn Maloney in the House Democratic Caucus with support from Nancy Pelosi.

He was named the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform on January 3, 2019, and served until his death in October that year. In that capacity, he presided over the public testimony of Michael Cohen, former lawyer of President Trump, and also led the impeachment inquiry against the latter.

Family & Personal Life & Legacy

Elijah Cummings’ first marriage was to Joyce Matthews, with whom he had a daughter named Jennifer J. Cummings, but according to a 1999 report by the 'Baltimore Sun', they lived separately since 1982 without getting a divorce. The report also mentioned that he had a 16-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, Adia Cummings, from other relationships out of wedlock, and faced financial problems due to child support, taxes, and mortgage.

For a long time, he was secretive about his son, who lived with his mother in Baltimore, but often mentioned his youngest daughter in his speeches, and later posed for pictures with his two daughters.

He got married for the second time in 2009 to Maya Michelle Rockeymoore, who owned the consultancy firm, Global Policy Solutions, and previously worked as Chief of Staff for former Congressman Charles Rangel.

In April 2015, Cummings gained recognition for delivering the passionate eulogy at the funeral of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray,who died in police custody, and later requested protesters to obey curfew and avoid violence.

Back in 1994, he had been diagnosed with thymic carcinoma, a rare form of thymus gland cancer, and had to undergo a major surgery in 1997, but never fully recovered. In May 2017, he required a heart surgery to repair his aortic valve, following which he developed a surgery-related infection, and was hospitalized again later for a knee infection.

While he had been absent from key political proceedings since early September 2019 and needed to use support to get around, it was not revealed publicly that he was in hospice care. He died from "complications concerning longstanding health challenges" at Johns Hopkins Hospital on October 17, 2019, and was laid in state prior to his funeral at the New Psalmist Baptist Church, Baltimore, on October 25.

Trivia

Elijah Cummings was only 11 when, with two dozen children, he marched to the Riverside Park Pool in South Baltimore, in an effort to integrate the segregated public pool. Despite police barricade, a mob of angry white people attacked them with bottles and rocks, inflicting an injury in his eyebrow that left a lifelong scar.

He was in grade school when a counselor told him that he will never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer because he was too slow and spoke very poorly. He became so determined following the event that he not only earned success as a lawyer, but also became a celebrated orator in the statehouse.

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