Elijah Cummings was my beloved brother of more than 40 years. And I miss him already.
People like Elijah do not come like grapes in bunches; he was the rarest of breeds. He walked and worked with queens, kings, speakers and presidents, yet he treasured traversing and conversing with his Baltimore family the most. In the best of times, as well as during the most challenging of times, Elijah Cummings remained steadfast in his love for, his belief in and his presence among his community. Although his prodigious intellectual gifts and academic accomplishments could have provided him with vast material wealth, Elijah selflessly chose to dwell and labor among his lifelong friends and neighbors. During the riots in the aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray, he stood tall, stood with and stood up for the damned and dispossessed. Evidence that even as he continued to rise in stature and prominence, he was but a door knock away from his people… THE people.
A wise person once said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This was a test that he passed with the highest marks. As chairman of the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful men in America. He handled the gavel, that power, with dignity, discipline and grace. His adversaries were never his enemies. And all who worked with him, whatever their political persuasion, found him to be tough, smart, honest, honorable and fair. Even as he was assailed by the most powerful man in the world, he never ceded his personal dignity, nor that of the constituents that he represented, by responding in kind. In so doing, he lifted his community and elevated our nation.
Like other great Marylanders before him –Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Parren Mitchell, Clarence Mitchell and Juanita Jackson Mitchell –his leadership was authentic. He did not follow opinion polls; he shaped them.
Elijah Cummings never stopped believing in the American dream and pressed ahead until his last days to give every citizen, aspirant and actual, access to that dream as well as all of the blessings of our great republic.
Indeed, it has been one of the great joys of my life to watch the nation get to know, respect and admire this great patriot, public servant and man of God.
Rest in peace and power, my dear friend.