Putting the interests of the people first was the hallmark of this fine man and his extraordinary life. A 23-year veteran of the House and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Mr. Cummings died early Thursday morning in a hospice center in Baltimore from what his office said were “complications concerning long-standing health challenges.” He was 68, and his death hit hard.
“An irreplaceable void,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “People throughout the world have lost a powerful voice and one of the strongest and most gifted crusaders for social justice,” said Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. Young (D). “He lived the American dream and he wanted it for everyone else,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), calling him “the North Star” of the House. Praise and condolences also came from Republicans who had sparred politically with Mr. Cummings but held him in genuine and high regard. “My heart is broken,” former GOP congresswoman Mia Love of Utah wrote on Twitter. “One of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics,” wrote former congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who famously battled with Mr. Cummings when he preceded him as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Most heartfelt were the remembrances of Baltimore residents. They recalled how as a state representative he led the fight to remove alcohol and tobacco billboards, how he stood on street corners during anti-drug vigils, fearlessly took to the streets during the city’s riots to urge calm, and continued to make his home in the inner city. The son of a sharecropper who battled for civil rights and broke barriers — including integrating his childhood neighborhood pool and serving as the first African American speaker pro tem of the Maryland House of Delegates — Mr. Cummings couldn’t countenance those who stood by in the face of wrong.
“When we’re dancing with the angels,” he said during a congressional hearing involving former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, “the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” As long as he had breath, Mr. Cummings spoke out. He will be sorely missed.