Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Friday he will move to name the Courthouse East building in downtown Baltimore after the late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Under legislation Young intends to file as quickly as possible with the City Council, the city-controlled building at the northeast corner of Calvert and Fayette streets would become known as Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse.
Young said the congressman used to practice law in the building when he was starting out as an attorney.
“It is most fitting that this building, in which Congressman Cummings fought for justice for his fellow citizens early in his career as an attorney, be named in his honor," Young said in a statement. "It will stand in perpetuity as a monument to Cummings’ service to the common man, the rule of law in our society, and his commitment to economic justice for all.”
A spokesman for the Democratic mayor said a new sign would be erected as soon as possible and a ceremony would be held to unveil it.
The move would mean the Baltimore Circuit Court complex would contain two buildings named for venerated figures in the city’s political history.
The proposed Cummings courthouse is across Calvert Street from the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. courthouse, which in 1985 was named after Mitchell, who was head of the NAACP’s Washington office and was one of President Lyndon Johnson’s chief advisers during the civil rights movement. Mitchell was also the brother of the late Parren J. Mitchell, the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland. Parren Mitchell, a Democrat, represented the 7th District seat in Congress, the seat Cummings later held for 23 years until his death.
Young said he reached the decision about naming the building after meeting with elected officials and community leaders to discuss the best way to honor Cummings, whom Young called one of the city’s “greatest voices and staunchest advocates.”
In Congress, Cummings ascended to become chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Democrat died Thursday after several years of health problems, including cancer.
Young also said he will proclaim Jan. 18, the congressman’s birthday, as Elijah Cummings Day in Baltimore with a call for “residents to stand up for the voiceless members of their community.”
“It is an enormous loss for our city, our state and our nation," the mayor said. “A voice for the people like his will not be easily replaced, but it now falls upon all of us to pick up the mantle and continue his fight.”
Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott, who is running for mayor, said he thought naming the courthouse for Cummings was a “great idea.”
But Scott said more must be done to honor Cummings’ legacy. He suggested naming a public school for Cummings and erecting a statue to the congressman at one of the sites in the city where Confederate monuments once stood.
“What better message would it send to the young people in Baltimore than to replace one of the symbols of hatred with a symbol of humble service?” Scott said.
City officials say construction of Courthouse East began in 1930 as a federal courthouse, and was completed in 1932.
It is steeped in history. Ruling from the building in 1934, U.S. District Judge Calvin Chestnut became the first jurist to strike down a New Deal act of Congress. In 1948, accused spy Alger Hiss filed a libel suit against Whittaker Chambers at the courthouse. In 1973, then-U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew pleaded “no contest” in one of the courtrooms before resigning his office.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, the same year it became part of the circuit court.