Robert Cummings Sr., a retired W. R. Grace employee and the father of U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, died Sunday of a heart attack while on a church-sponsored visit to the Women's Prison in Jessup. He was 74 and lived in Edmondson Village.
Mr. Cummings worked as a laborer for 42 years with W. R. Grace before retiring in 1989. The son of sharecroppers, he was born in Manning, S.C., and often worked in the fields as a young man. When farm work needed to be done, he was taken out of school.
"My father was a great inspiration to me," said Mr. Cummings, who represents the 7th District. "He taught us nothing was impossible, despite his limited education. He spent his life believing in education and emphasized that we had to be in school every day."
Mr. Cummings said his father was also a deeply religious man who often gathered his family around him to say the Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm.
After the elder Mr. Cummings moved to Baltimore in the 1940s, he lived with his family in a rowhouse in the 100 block of W. Cross St. in South Baltimore.
"In 1960, he told us, 'We're going to move out of this small house and go to Edmondson Village,'" his son said. "We went to the new house, held hands and prayed, and the white folks there thought we were holding some sort of demonstration."
The elder Mr. Cummings joined the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and sang in its male chorus. In 1977, he joined the Victory Prayer Chapel and became an elder there. He often visited prisons and other places where he thought he could do some good.
In 1945, he married the former Ruth Cochran.
Funeral services will he held at 11:30 a.m. today at the Victory of Prayer Chapel, 4848 Reisterstown Road.
In addition to his wife and son, he is also survived by three other sons, Robert Cummings Jr. of Baltimore, James Cummings of Woodbridge, Va., and Charnel Cummings of Baltimore; three daughters, Cheretheria Blount and Diane Woodson, both of Baltimore, Yvonne Jennings of Hartford, Conn. ; and three sisters, Bernice Walters of Baltimore and Ida Walker and Alice Martin, both of Manning; 10 grandchildren and two great grandsons.