‘Like part of my family’: A week of words for Rep. Elijah Cummings’ life of service

As the news of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ death rippled through the Baltimore community, his constituents were already delivering flowers outside his home and district office. Cummings, 68, had cancer and died Oct. 17 in hospice care.

In the days that followed, admirers across the country expressed their shock, grief, and fondest memories of the Baltimore Democrat known for his devotion to his native city and to civil rights. On Wednesday, a long line of people formed outside the doors of Morgan State University’s arts center an hour before his viewing. Thousands are expected to attend his funeral today at his longtime church in Northwest Baltimore.


Through the course of our reporting and in appeals to readers, we asked Baltimore area residents and others Cummings touched to share their memories of the lawmaker. Here’s what they had to say. Some answers have been edited for clarity.

A commanding, calming presence

I remember when he came to the projects for the killing of Freddie Gray; he talked our kids out of doing things in the wrong manner. He said if you want to be heard, do it the legal way: Don’t destroy our city ... you the young people have to live on when we are gone; let’s work together and make this right, we will get justice. He loved his city. I am 60 years old and I feel like he’s a part of my family he worked to the end as he said he would. We love and will miss you. Thank you for the great work you did for our city. You will be missed. — Diane Wyatt, Sandtown-Winchester

The Democratic congressman from West Baltimore was a voice of peace and calm in the streets of his hometown in the days after Freddie Gray’s death.

Elijah Cummings was an incredible human being . I did not know him personally but I respected him from afar for many reasons: I saw him at free concerts and events. He would groove to Frankie Beverly and Maze alongside of us. He visited my church, Friendship Baptist, and was very transparent about his humble beginnings. When we had the Freddie Gray riots, he came out of his home, pajamas clad, stood by us, and spoke so eloquently to the public. He brought a sense of calm (and hope) in the midst of despair to a grieving city. ... Cummings stood among us at the Martin Luther statue in inclement weather during community meetings. ... While living in such a turbulent, yet great city, he was the voice of reason for the people. I felt safer knowing he was there fighting for us! May you find comfort during your loss, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings. 🙏You will be missed, Elijah Cummings. You made an indelible contribution to the hearts and minds of the people in America.” — Pat Burwell, Baltimore

"He was up on North Avenue, in person, trying to calm down that situation. He was a leader.” — Howie Ghee, West Baltimore

Howie Ghee of West Baltimore says what comes to mind is the indelible image of Cummings calming tensions after the 2015 uprising.

Leading by example

He always seemed to be sincere, doing right by the people. He would motivate us to keep doing what we were doing, what was right. — Gilbert Ricks, Baltimore

Elijah was a pillar of kindness, wisdom, and leadership, a beacon of hope for our State. And he was a model for any young African American boy or girl for what is possible to grow up to be. I have many fond memories of his decency and practicality as we planned prayer vigils with the Safe Haven Network in Park Heights in the 1990’s and the ignited local leaders in Baltimore’s Vision for Action the last five years. I know of junior congressmen and women who looked up to him for how to be and how to lead. We will deeply miss him. I send condolences and prayers for his family and our country, our state of Maryland, our city of Baltimore and our work which he supported and championed for social progress and greater well-being. — Louise Phipps Senft, Roland Park

“He was a model for any young African American boy or girl for what is possible to grow up to be.”

—  Louise Phipps Senft, Roland Park

He stood up, put himself out there so we could get a better life. A street or something should be named after him. — Matthew Hubbard, West Baltimore

This city lost a hero. I remembered volunteering for one of his campaigns in the ’90s handing out flyers and one evening all of the volunteers met at his office where he prayed with us. I was touched by how down to earth and how gracious he was to us. I remembered being very motivated and encouraged by his words. I feel honored to have met him even though it was for a brief moment. Mr. Cummings was a true leader and will be missed but not forgotten.” — Ameeran Ali, Baltimore

He was for everybody. He was present for all people. — Thelma Johnson, Edmonson village

Thelma Johnson of Edmondson Village said the city has lost a great leader after the passing of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Part of Baltimore

People could go to his office. They would talk, and he would listen. — Lawrence Henderson, Baltimore


If you wrote or called him, I don’t know how he did it, but he responded to everyone. If you had a little gathering — coffee and doughnuts — he would come." — Myrtle Webb, Jessup

Norris Davis, left, a friend of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gives a hug to Cummings' nephew Amos Gaskins, Jr., outside of Cummings home Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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"He went to City College, not too far from us. And he came back and lived in the neighborhood, not too far from us. He was a part of all of this thing called Baltimore. — Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm, a friend and neighbor of Cummings in West Baltimore’s Druid Heights neighborhood

Congressman Cummings came to BWI to protest" President Donald Trump’s travel ban affecting mostly majority-Muslim countries and he spoke to the crowd. I love that he cared. — Debi Jasen, Pasadena

Linthicum, Md.--1/29/17-- Congressman Elijah Cummings made an appearance in solidarity with thousands who gather at BWI-Airport to protest President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from several Muslim countries through executive orders.

One Saturday I arrived at the station to do my spot. It just so happens there was some political news breaking and Congressman Cummings showed up to be interviewed on air. It was a very serious moment. It just so happens my pet guest that day was a pig, an adult pig. Everything was going well. Before his spot, the congressman and I were talking. The pig had not arrived. The congressman started his live interview just as the pig was entering the guest area behind what was thought to be heavy soundproof doors. The pig wasn’t happy about being in a strange space and started to squeal loudly, like screaming babies, at the volume of a fire engine. Cummings was on the air; I know he did his best. The pig never let up. You couldn’t hear a thing Cummings had to say. ... After the spot, he came over to me .. he had a very stern look, then, suddenly burst into a huge smile and laughter. He was speechless, overwhelmed by the humor of the moment. We both understood we had just shared an innocent, unrehearsed, satire on politics. Before he left, he turned, shook my hand, told me he loved pigs. Then he walked away giggling. — Dr. Kim Hammond, WBAL-TV “Pet Questions” host, Baltimore

Baltimore, MD--5/30/02--Congressman Elijah Cummings, surrounded by elementary school children in the gymnasium of Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, announces a $1 million federal grant to seven Baltimore City elementary schools to fix up their playgrounds.  Kim Hairston/staff.

Beloved beyond Maryland

The first time I saw Elijah was on television not too long ago but I loved him from the start. The words he spoke were the most truth I have heard from people that I have been searching for all my life. I love Elijah Cummings and I miss you." — Clarisse Courcier, Kelseyville, California

I have been inspired by his character to stand for righteous in the midst of adversary for many years. I have studied his love and passion, and unwavering loyalty and dedication for many years and I am sad as I grieve with the world now that a man who has had a major impact on me and my family for many years is Resting now. May God bless his loving wife and family and may God give his perfect grace and peace to this family for many days to come. God bless America. Rev. Thomas A. Adams, Hot Springs, Arkansas


“I have been inspired by his character to stand for righteous in the midst of adversary for many years.”

—  Rev. Thomas A. Adams

I only saw him on TV. I felt he was a good man and his heart was in the right place. I respected him and the work he did even though I live in Connecticut. May his legacy live on. Rest in peace [Congressman] Cummings — you passed on too young." Linda Infante, Hamden, Connecticut

His visits down to Florida on behalf of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign for President of these United States. I will never forget his energy and excitement. — Tony Hill, Jacksonville, Florida