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Congressman Elijah Cummings Has Died At 68: 'We Lost A Giant Today'

Elijah Cummings, the 12-term Democratic Congressman representing Maryland's 7th District, has died at the age of 68 due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges," CBS News reported.

Cummings had been absent from Congress following an unspecified medical procedure and hadn't taken a roll call vote since September 11, according to The Baltimore Sun. He had undergone an aortic valve replacement in 2017, and later had to be hospitalized due to a knee infection, but he was believed to have recovered from both.

Cummings's rise to prominence in Congress was never assured.

Facebook | Elijah Cummings

Cummings's parents were South Carolina sharecroppers who moved north seeking better lives. They settled in Baltimore, where Cummings was born, one of seven children. Early on, he dreamed of being a lawyer, but a school counselor told him he was too slow to learn and spoke too poorly to achieve that dream.

Driven to prove that counselor wrong, Cummings did achieve his dream and passed the state bar in 1976. In 1982, he ran for state delegate and won, serving another 14 years in the Maryland General Assembly.

Cummings was first elected to Congress in 1996.

He won 12 elections to Congress in his career, the last in 2018, when he was selected to serve as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

In that time, Cummings never moved outside of Baltimore's inner city. "I like to be among my constituents," he told 60 Minutes in January. "Let me tell you something man, if I don't do well in this block, I'm in trouble. I mean, if you wanna take a poll, if I lost this block I might as well go— I might as well stay home."

His role as House Oversight Committee chairman brought him into conflict with President Trump in 2019.

Facebook | Elijah Cummings

His committee issued subpoenas for Trump's personal and financial records as part of its oversight duties, probing potential conflicts of interest, which the White House refused. Trump responded to Cummings's investigations by calling his district a "rodent infested mess" where "no human being would want to live."

However, after learning of Cummings's passing, Trump tweeted "warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader."

Indeed, tributes have poured in for Cummings from every corner of American politics, recalling his passion for his constituents, for democracy, and his power as an orator.

Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, a longtime friend of Cummings, tweeted "There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff — please pray for them. I will miss him dearly."

Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted "We lost a giant today. Congressman Elijah Cummings was a fearless leader, a protector of democracy, and a fighter for the people of Maryland. Our world is dimmer without him in it."

Cummings is survived by his wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.

Facebook | Elijah Cummings

"Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility," she said in a statement. "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. It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly."

h/t: CBS News, The Baltimore Sun, The Associated Press