Who is U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings?

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings chaired the committee that heard testimony Wednesday from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney.

But before the congressman was overseeing the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, he notably started his career as a Baltimore attorney and spent more than a decade as a member of the Maryland General Assembly.


Here’s a look at the congressman’s life and career as a public servant:

Ruth Elma Cummings, founder of Victory Prayer Chapel and the mother of U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, died Monday, according to the congressman’s office. She was 91.

Growing up

Cummings was born in 1951 and raised in Baltimore, where he still resides today, according to his congressional biography.


He is one of seven children to parents Robert Cummings Sr. and Ruth Elma Cummings, née Cochran, both of whom worked as sharecroppers in South Carolina on land where their family’s ancestors were enslaved. The couple moved to Baltimore in the late 1940s.

As a child, Cummings struggled in elementary school and was assigned to special education courses. However, after showing promise in high school at City College, he won Phi Beta Kappa honors at Howard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and passed the state bar in 1976.

According to his congressional biography, the congressman is an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church and is married to Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who was elected chair of the Maryland Democratic Party in December.

Getting into politics

After graduating from law school, Cummings joined a small Baltimore law firm and later set up his own practice, pooling expenses with two other lawyers. He soon transitioned to his second aspiration as a public servant. His longtime mentor is Larry Gibson, the Baltimore attorney and author who was active in the 1960s civil rights movement.

In 1982, with the support of several established city officials, Cummings ran for state delegate and won. He served in the Maryland General Assembly for 14 years and became the first African-American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tem.

In late 1995, Cummings decided to run for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives after Rep. Kweisi Mfume announced that he would resign to become the head of the NAACP. Cummings has served as a congressman since 1996.

If Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, Elijah Cummings is in line to ascend to the chairmanship of a committee with the authority — so far untapped — to demand documents related to Donald Trump’s personal finances and policies, as well as possible agency abuses.

Health problems

The 67-year-old congressman said recent health trouble wouldn’t affect his ability to be chairman.

In 2017, he underwent a minimally invasive heart procedure, which led to an infection that kept him in the hospital longer than expected.

He was later hospitalized for a knee infection and uses a cane but says his mobility is improving, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, distinguished himself with his closing remarks Wednesday at the Michael Cohen hearing.

Fighting spirit

Cummings has brought his experience as a Maryland delegate and background as a litigator to his work in Congress. He is known on Capitol Hill for his boisterous questioning of witnesses.

Cummings serves as a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and as the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. As the main investigative committee in the House, the oversight committee has jurisdiction to investigate any federal program and any matter with federal policy implications, the congressional biography states.

The oversight committee heard such testimony Wednesday from Cohen on the president’s alleged violation of campaign finance laws.


Cummings delivered a sharp opening statement at Cohen’s hearing, stating that the days of the oversight committee “protecting the president at all costs are over.”

It was vintage Elijah Cummings, part preacher, part politician, who as chairman of the House Oversight Committee had to wield a tough gavel Wednesday as congressmen bickered during and over Michael Cohen's testimony.

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