BALTIMORE — The widow of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said at his funeral Friday that attacks by President Trump on the congressman’s beloved hometown “hurt him” and made the final months of his life more difficult.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said her husband was trying to protect “the soul of our democracy” and fighting “very real corruption” as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, where he played a central role in investigating the Trump administration.
Trump lashed out at Cummings this summer, calling Baltimore, the heart of his district, a “rat-infested” place where no one would want to live. Cummings did not respond directly to the attacks, but his wife said Friday that they left a lasting wound.
Rockeymoore Cummings spoke near the end of a lengthy funeral program at New Psalmist Baptist Church, where Cummings worshiped for decades — showing up regularly on Sunday mornings for the 7:15 a.m. service.AD
She was followed by former presidents Bill Clinton — who visited the church with Cummings in the 1990s — and Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief, both of whom hailed the longtime lawmaker as an inspiration and a friend.
Cummings was the son of sharecroppers who moved to Baltimore to build a better life for their seven children. His parents “came from nothing and carved out just a little something,” Obama said, adding that Cummings “went on to fight for the rights and opportunities of forgotten people all across America.”
Obama did not mention the political rancor in Washington directly. But he praised Cummings as a moral voice and an example of how to act, both in public and in private.
There’s nothing wrong with “being honorable,” the 44th president said, drawing cheers and knowing laughs from the crowd. “You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”AD
Hillary Clinton: Cummings ‘made every moment of his life count’Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) at his funeral on Oct. 25 in Baltimore. (The Washington Post)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential contender, recited the 23rd Psalm at the start of the service, which Rockeymoore Cummings said her husband planned down to the last detail.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who also grew up in Baltimore, gave remarks, along with former congressman and NAACP leader Kwesi Mfume (D-Md.), Cummings’s daughters, brother, mentors, friends and a former aide.
Attendees included former vice president Joe Biden, also a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
A schedule showed that each speaker was allotted about five minutes at the podium — a time limit that many ignored.
Former U.S. senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton called Cummings “Our Elijah.”
“Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven. But he also prayed and worked for healing,” Clinton said. “Like the prophet, he stood against the corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.”AD
The people in the packed sanctuary clapped and cheered.
Cummings, who had been in poor health in recent years, died Oct. 17 at age 68. Clinton called him “a fierce champion of truth, justice and kindness … who pushed back against the abuse of power.”
“He had little tolerance for those who put party ahead of country or partisanship ahead of truth,” she said.
The congressman often said he considered it his mission to preserve the American system of government as the nation faced a “critical crossroads.” But Cummings was also a lifelong civil rights champion known for his efforts to help the poor and the struggling, and to boost the fortunes of his struggling hometown.
Jennifer Cummings, 37, delivered a powerful eulogy extolling her father as a seasoned political leader whose most important role was as a dad. Cummings told her he was amazed he could hold her in one hand when she was born. “This life, my life, in your hand,” she said. He wanted her to know her “rich brown skin was just as beautiful as alabaster, or any color of the rainbow” and insisted on buying her brown dolls so she could appreciate what was special about her.AD
His other daughter, Adia Cummings, asked the dozens of members of Cummings staff to stand. “I’m so sorry you lost someone who was so much more than a boss to you,” she said.
James Cummings, the congressman’s younger brother, said the family called Elijah Cummings by the nickname “Bobby,” and recalled how the congressman was haunted by the death of his nephew, a student at Old Dominion University, up through his final days.
Mourners began lining up at the church at 5 a.m., the Baltimore Sun reported. By 7 a.m., traffic was backed up a half-mile away from the church, which seats nearly 4,000. A choir sang and clapped as mourners filed into the concert hall-like sanctuary.
A pastor read Bible passages through the public address system, and one of the white-gloved ushers recited the words along with him, from memory. Clips of Cummings speaking in Congress played on huge video screens above the open casket, which was surrounded by massive sprays of flowers.
“In 2019, what do we do to make sure we keep our democracy intact?” he said in one video.
Just after 10 a.m., mourners at New Psalmist sprang to their feet and waved their hands as the Clintons and former vice president Joe Biden, also a 2020 candidate, walked in. The cheers grew louder when Obama followed, taking his place next to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the congressman’s widow, in the front row. Together, they sang along to the opening hymn.AD
As gospel singer BeBe Winas performed, a woman near the back wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. He sang: “Tell me, what do you do when you’ve done all you can / And it seems, it seems you can’t make it through / Well you stand, you stand, you just stand.”
The crowd obeyed.
Cummings was honored Wednesday at Morgan State University in Baltimore, a historically black research university where he served on the board of regents.
On Thursday, he became the first African American lawmaker to lie in state at the Capitol, a rare honor reserved for the nation’s most distinguished citizens. Congressional leaders held a memorial ceremony for their former colleague at the Capitol’s ornate Statuary Hall, after which the coffin, was draped in an American flag, was escorted to a spot just outside the House chamber. Thousands of members of the public came to pay their respects.AD
For more than two hours, Rockeymoore Cummings, personally greeted the mourners, shaking hands, sharing hugs and engaging in extended conversations. A former gubernatorial candidate who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party, she is considered one of the potential contenders for her late husband’s seat.
Rockeymoore Cummings greeted the last mourner at 7:39 p.m. Minutes later, a motorcade escorted Cummings’s body out of Capitol Plaza for the final time.