Elijah Eugene Cummings (January 18, 1951 – October 17, 2019) was an American politician and the member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 7th congressional district. The district includes just over half of Baltimore City, most of the majority-black precincts of Baltimore County, as well as most of Howard County. He previously served in the Maryland House of Delegates. He was a member of the Democratic Party and chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Early life, education, and career
Cummings was born on January 18, 1951 in Baltimore, the son of Ruth Elma (née Cochran) and Robert Cummings. His parents were sharecroppers. He was the third child of seven. Cummings graduated with honors from the Baltimore City College high school in 1969.
He later attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he served in the student government as sophomore class president, student government treasurer and later student government president. He became a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor‘s degree in Political Science.
Cummings graduated from law school at the University of Maryland School of Law, receiving his J.D. in 1976, and was admitted to the Maryland Bar later that year. He practiced law for 19 years before first being elected to the House in the 1996 elections.
For 14 years, Cummings served in the Maryland House of Delegates. His predecessor, Lena King Lee, raised funds and campaigned for him; years later, Cummings credited her with launching his political career. In the Maryland General Assembly, he served as Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and was the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tempore, the second highest position in the House of Delegates.
Cummings also served on several boards and commissions, both in and out of Baltimore. Those include SEED Schools of Maryland Board of Directors and the University of Maryland Law School Board of Advisors. He served on numerous Maryland boards and commissions including the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel. He was an honorary member of the Baltimore Zoo Board of Trustees.
- Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Chair)
- Select Committee on Benghazi (Ranking Minority Member 114th Congress)
In December 2010, Edolphus Towns announced that he would not seek the position of ranking minority member of the Oversight Committee in the next Congress, even though his seniority and service as chair would typically result in him filling this post. Reportedly, Towns withdrew because of a lack of support from Nancy Pelosi who feared that he would not be a sufficiently aggressive leader of Democrats in an anticipated struggle with incoming committee chair Republican Darrell Issa. Reportedly, the White House also wanted Towns to be replaced. Cummings defeated Carolyn Maloney in a vote of the House Democratic Caucus.
In his role as chair of the “Oversight Committee” he presided over the first public testimony by President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and was a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.
- Task Force on Health Care Reform
- Co-founder and Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Drug Policy
- Congressional Arts Caucus
- Afterschool Caucuses
Cummings received praise following the congressional panel hearings on steroids in 2008. While investigating the use of steroids in sports, the panel called numerous baseball players to testify, including former single season home run record holder Mark McGwire. After McGwire answered many questions in a vague fashion, Cummings demanded to know if he was “taking the Fifth”, referring to the Fifth Amendment. McGwire responded by saying, “I am here to talk about the future, not about the past.” The exchange came to epitomize the entire inquiry.
Cummings introduced the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2014. The bill, which Cummings cosponsored with Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, is a set of amendments to the Federal Records Act and Presidential Records Act. Among other provisions, the bill modernizes the definition of a federal record to expressly include electronic documents.
He supported the Smart Savings Act, a bill that would make the default investment in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) an age-appropriate target date asset allocation investment fund (L Fund) instead of the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund). Cummings called the bill a “commonsense change” and argued that the bill “will enable workers to take full advantage of a diversified fund designed to yield higher returns”.
He introduced the All Circuit Review Extension Act, a bill that would extend for three years the authority for federal employees who appeal a judgment of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to file their appeal at any federal circuit court of appeals, instead of only the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Cummings said that this program is important to extend because it “allows whistleblowers to file appeals where they live rather than being limited to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals”. He also said that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has “an abysmal track record in whistleblower cases”.
In remarks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Cummings declared: “Our party does not just believe, but understands, that Black Lives Matter. But we also recognize that our community and our law enforcement work best when they work together.”
Five-term Congressman for Maryland’s 7th congressional district, Kweisi Mfume resigned in February 1996 to take the presidency of the NAACP. Cummings won a crowded seven-way Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district—with 37.5% of the vote. In the special election, he defeated Republican Kenneth Kondner with over 80 percent of the vote. He defeated Kondner again in November by a similar margin to win the seat in his own right.
He was reelected 11 more times since then, never dropping below 69 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2006.
Personal life and death
Cummings underwent surgery to repair his aortic valve in May 2017 and was absent from Capitol Hill for two months. In July 2017, he developed a surgery-related infection but returned to work. On October 17, 2019, Cummings died at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 68 from, his spokeswoman stated, “complications concerning longstanding health challenges”.