In Memoriam: Esteemed Public Servant

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, a powerhouse voice for the unheard, and servant leader died in October 2019.

Former Congressman Elijah Cummings

He was a class of 1973 graduate of alma mater. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in political science. Congressman Cummings then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976 and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in December 1976. He practiced law for nineteen years before entering Congress.

Congressman Cummings was educated by world-class political science faculty experts—each among the earliest of all Blacks to earn Ph.Ds. in political science. The Howard political science faculty were the progenitors of what is now known as Black politics in the field of political science. The study of Black people and politics was birthed here. Congressman Cummings’ student experience in this environment propelled his lifetime of honorable public service.

Without a doubt, he blazed his own trails by beginning his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for more than a decade. While there, he became the youngest elected chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, and the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro-Tem, the second-highest position in the House of Delegates. Congressman Cummings proudly represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Cummings always honored the responsibility of a Howard graduate. He received an Alumni Achievement Award in 2000 (the same year as Jessye Norman). He also received the honorary degree, LL.D., in 2003 as the Charter Day Orator and a Special Citation of Achievement in 2006 as the Commencement Orator.

A masterful coalition builder, from 2003-04, he was president of the Congressional Black Caucus. He accomplished a productive agenda with the help of other progressive caucuses to: preserve affirmative action; block the nomination of narrow-minded federal judges; stop

the implementation of limited media ownership rules; improve health disparities, veterans’ benefits, and national security measures; increase funding for K-12 and for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); and, create new jobs and a climate for new businesses.

Of greatest significance, amidst it all, Congressman Cummings was present and there for his family, the less fortunate, the persecuted, the victimized, the city of Baltimore, America and Howard University. We must perpetuate his legacy by taking up his clarion call and fighting for equality and justice.

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