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Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, was in Baltimore for a private fundraiser with Rep. Elijah Cummings in September 2004.
Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, was in Baltimore for a private fundraiser with Rep. Elijah Cummings in September 2004. (AMY DAVIS/Baltimore Sun)

Two former presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, will speak Friday at the funeral service in Baltimore of Elijah Cummings, the Baltimore congressman, committee chairman and civil rights advocate who died a week ago.

Also among those speaking, according to Cummings’ aides, will be Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife and the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee; U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and former NAACP leader and Maryland congressman Kweisi Mfume. All are Democrats.

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A number of Cummings’ family members and others, including University of Maryland law professor Larry Gibson — a mentor of the congressman — will also address the service at New Psalmist Baptist Church

Obama, the 44th president, will attend the service, and "at the request of Mrs. Rockeymoore-Cummings, he will deliver remarks about the remarkable life and legacy of one of this country’s finest public servants,” said Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is the congressman’s widow and the chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. She will also speak at the service.

Left to right, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, Rep. Elijah Cummings and President Clinton share a laugh during the sermon by Dr. Walter S. Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, in November 1998.
Left to right, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, Rep. Elijah Cummings and President Clinton share a laugh during the sermon by Dr. Walter S. Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, in November 1998. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

Elijah Cummings, who had cancer, died Oct. 17.

In a statement, Obama said then that he was “heartbroken” over the loss of Cummings, 68, whom the former two-term president called “steely yet compassionate, principled yet open to new perspectives. 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."

It was uncertain whether Obama would attend the service until Hill confirmed his plans Wednesday night.

The appearance of two former presidents at a congressman’s funeral is rare. Bill Clinton was the 42nd president and served two terms.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, sharply criticized Cummings and Baltimore over the summer although he called him a “highly respected political leader” after the congressman died.

The longtime pastor of the Lochearn church, Bishop Walter Scott Thomas Sr., will deliver the eulogy. The church seats 4,000 people, and Thomas predicted that the church would be “overflowing.”

The other speakers include former Baltimore health commissioner Leana Wen; the congressman’s daughters, Jennifer and Adia Cummings; his brother, James; clergy member Dr. Alfred Vaughn; clergy Deaconess Margaret Ann Howie of New Psalmist Baptist Church; Jon Alexander, whom Cummings mentored; and congressional staff member Harry Spikes.

In 2007, Cummings was an early endorser of Obama’s first presidential bid even as many members of Congress backed Hillary Clinton.

On Thursday, the late congressman will lie in state in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Among those addressing the service will be Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.

The public will be allowed in afterward to pay its respects from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m., via the Capitol Visitor Center.

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