“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,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Obama added that Cummings inspired Americans through his acts of civil service.
“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. .. Our deepest sympathies and abiding love go to his wife, Maya, his three children, and all those whose lives he touched,” Obama said.
Cummings died Thursday at 68 of “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said. He was chair of the House Oversight Committee and a key figure leading investigations into President Donald Trump, as well as a leader among African Americans in Congress.
He was one of the earliest supporters of Obama’s presidential candidacy in 2007 when many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, were backing Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Cummings said at the time he believed African American voters would ultimately rally around Obama if he showed signs of being able to win.
“People say, ‘He’s like my son or my grandson and before I die, I’d like to have the chance to vote for someone who can win,'” he said.
As Democrats and Republicans remembered Cummings Thursday as a strong leader, Clinton called Cummings “a man of principle who championed truth, justice and kindness.”
“America lost a giant with the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, a man of principle who championed truth, justice and kindness,” she wrote on Twitter. “He fiercely loved his country and the people he served. Rest In Peace, my friend.”
Former President Bill Clinton said he and Hillary are “grateful to have served with (Cummings) and for his friendship.” The former president is an honorary member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., of which Cummings was also a member.
“Elijah Cummings was a resounding voice of moral courage who fought the good fights for the people of Baltimore, and faithfully honored his oath to protect and defend the Constitution with a passion, skill, determination, and dignity rarely matched in our history,” Clinton said in a statement.