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Lawmakers, civil rights activists reflect on Elijah Cummings' life

Elijah Cummings and Obama
Rep. Elijah Cummings with then-candidate Barack Obama. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images

President Obama on Thursday issued a statement on the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee and a fierce civil rights advocate.

"Michelle and I are heartbroken over the passing of our friend, Elijah Cummings. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he showed us all not only the importance of checks and balances within our democracy, but also the necessity of good people stewarding it. Steely yet compassionate, principled yet open to new perspectives, Chairman Cummings remained steadfast in his pursuit of truth, justice, and reconciliation. It's a tribute to his native Baltimore that one of its own brought such character, tact, and resolve into the halls of power every day. And true to the giants of progress he followed into public service, Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most. May his example inspire more Americans to pick up the baton and carry it forward in a manner worthy of his service. Our deepest sympathies and abiding love go to his wife, Maya, his three children, and all those whose lives he touched."

What they're saying: Condolences and sympathies poured in across party lines following the news of the Maryland Democrat's death.

  • Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and Cummings' wife Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: "He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity... I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purposes. His principled leadership as chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come."
  • Hillary Clinton: "America lost a giant with the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, a man of principle who championed truth, justice and kindness. He fiercely loved his country and the people he served. Rest In Peace, my friend."
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): "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."
  • Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.): "Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics. The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs. We rarely agreed on political matters. We never had a cross word outside of a committee room. He had a unique ability to separate the personal from the work. The story of Elijah's life would benefit everyone, regardless of political ideation..."
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): My condolences to the family of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland who went to be with the Lord early this morning at 68 years of age. May God grant his family strength & peace in these difficult moments & his soul eternal rest.
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.): "[Rep. Cummings] and I shared a city, an alma mater, a love of the law and a life of public service. I am deeply saddened by his passing, and my prayers today are with his family and loved ones – and the people of Baltimore."

Civil rights activists who worked alongside Cummings also reacted to his passing.

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson: "Shocked by the suddenness of his passing. He possessed broad shoulders, keen intellect, a tough mind&a tender heart; the attributes of which great leaders are built.Condolences to his wife, his family, Baltimore, his constituents & the nation. A fine public servant."
  • Rev. Al Sharpton: “He was a king on a throne. The throne didn’t define him. And that’s what we’ll always remember.”