At a Glance
- Career History: Maryland speaker pro tempore (1995-1996); Defense attorney (1976-1996);Member of the Maryland state house of delegates, (1983-1996)
- Birthday: Jan. 18, 1951
- Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
- Alma Mater: Howard University, B.A., political science, 1973; University of Maryland School of Law, J.D., 1976
- Spouse: Joyce Cummings (separated)
- Religion: Baptist
- Committees: Transportation and Infrastructure (chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation); Oversight and Government Reform
- DC Office: 2235 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515202-225-4741
- District Office: 1010 Park Avenue, Suite 105 Baltimore, Md., 21201, 410-685-9199; 754 Frederick Road, Catonsville, Md., 21228, 410-719-8777; 8267 Main Street, Room 102, Ellicott Mills Post Office, Ellicott City, Md., 21043, 410-465-8259
Path to Power
Cummings was born poor in west Baltimore. His father was a laborer for a fruit orchard and a chemical plant, while his mother held jobs as a pickle-factory worker and a domestic housekeeper. The realities of inner-city life surrounded him in the form of vast numbers of young men in his neighborhood who ran afoul of the law and got committed to reform schools. Their plights led him to consider a career in law.
"I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers," he said. "I went into law, and later politics, in hopes that I could give of myself, be an inspiration to others."
Cummings's voting record is solidly liberal: He sided with the majority of his Democratic Party colleagues 98.8 percent of the time in the 107th Congress and 94.5 percent of the time throughout his congressional career.
Cummings is a prominent critic of AIG. He grilled Neel Kashkari, interim assistant secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability, in a Nov. 14, 2008, hearing in which he told Kashkari that in light of the distribution of federal funds to AIG, and AIG's subsequent use of them for expensive receptions and salary bonuses, some observers might take Kashkari for a "chump:"
In early 2007, when the contest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination was underway, Barack Obama personally telephoned Cummings to ask him to lead his Maryland effort. Cummings accepted, and traveled extensively both throughout Maryland and the U.S. to raise support for Obama's bid. Cummings was particularly visible in the hotly-contested South Carolina primary, one that analysts say proved pivotal to Obama's eventual securing of the nomination. Cummings subsequently co-chaired the Maryland delegation at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
In 2006, he backed his predecessor in the House, Kweisi Mfume (D), in the primary for the open Senate seat being vacated by outgoing Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D). But he actively gathered Democrats behind then-Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) following Cardin's nomination victory.