Rep. Elijah Cummings, the longtime Baltimore Democrat who famously feuded with President Trump, died early Thursday morning. He was 68.
A statement from his congressional office said that Cummings passed away at Johns Hopkins Hospital in his hometown due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges” around 2:45 a.m.
Cummings, the son of a sharecropper and a fierce advocate for the nation’s cities, last month underwent an unspecified medical procedure, the Baltimore Sun reported. Cummings planned to return to Washington when the House resumed session but did not come back to office as expected.
As the chairman of the House oversight committee, Cummings played a key role in the Democratic-led investigation into Trump’s alleged abuses of power and was one of three representatives leading the impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) is the most senior Democrat on the committee after the death of Cummings but it was not immediately known if she will take the gavel.
Cummings’s sudden death was not expected to hold up the fast-moving impeachment effort which was set to continue Thursday with testimony of Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings remembered her late husband as an “honorable man” who served “with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility.”
“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” said Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is also chair of Maryland’s Democratic Party.
In a sign of Cummings’s stature on Capitol Hill, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a staunch Tea Party conservative, said he was “heartbroken” by the loss of a close personal friend.
“I am heartbroken, truly heartbroken,” Meadows told CNN.
The Baltimore Archdiocese shortly after Cumming’s death tweeted that he “generously shared his God-given gifts and talents w/the people of his beloved city, state and nation for so many years. We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.”
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings headed multiple investigations into President Trump’s governmental dealings, including recent probes into the president’s family serving in the White House. He also had a prominent role in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
The president recently took aim at the Democrat’s district during a high-profile summer spat, calling it a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Later the same night, Trump appeared to poke fun at burglary that occurred at Cummings’ home.
The online insults came just days after the well-known civil rights advocate condemned the Commander-in-Chief’s attacks against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib as racist.
“I was beaten and all kinds of rocks and bottles thrown at me. And the interesting thing is that I heard the same kind of chant, ‘Go home, you don’t belong here.’ And they called us the N-word over and over again,” he said during a July appearance on ABC’s This Week.
“What it does when Trump does these things, it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 something years ago and it’s very, very painful. It’s extremely divisive and I just don’t think this is becoming of the President of the United States of America, the leader of the entire world.”
Cummings, the son of a sharecropper, was born on Jan. 18, 1951. He grew up with dreams of becoming a lawyer, but was told by a school counselor that he was not smart enough and that he spoke poorly.
“I was devastated,” he told the Associated Press shortly before he first won his seat in Congress. “My whole life changed. I became very determined.”
Cummings, also a dedicated champion of the Voting Rights Act, served as a representative for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District from 1996 until his death. He also chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004 and is credited with putting the group in the national spotlight.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings. He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity,” New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement.
“Congress has lost a Champion. Heaven has gained an Angel of Justice. May he forever #RestInPower.”