Longtime Maryland Baltimore congressman Elijah E. Cummings died Thursday at the age of 68 due to complications from longstanding health issues, his office said. Cummings was known for his devotion to the city and civil rights, as well as for his passion for speechmaking.
The representative had been absent from Capitol Hill for the past few weeks while receiving medical attention for his ongoing health issues. In 2017, he received an aortic valve replacement meant to correct narrowing in the aortic valve of his heart; however, the surgery caused an infection that prolonged his hospital stay. Although Cummings claimed this past summer that his health was fine, he had also been hospitalized for a knee infection.
The congressman held the position of chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is currently leading the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. He previously led the committee to investigate some of Trump’s other dealings. Cummings had not participated in a roll call since September 11th, though, and his office recently released a statement saying that he had “undergone a medical procedure but the seriousness of his condition had not been known,” according to the Associated Press.
Trump had previously called Cummings’ district a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” In response, the representative not only made a statement that government officials have to stop making “hateful, incendiary comments,” but he also invited the President to visit his city with him offering to be his personal tour guide.
“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” Cummings said.
Cummings was born in 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland, where he continued to live throughout his entire life. He first entered the city’s political landscape when he rose through the ranks of Maryland’s House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a 1996 special election.
“It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey,” his wife said in a statement, reported by the Baltimore Sun. “I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”