Rep. Elijah Cummings is being remembered today as the city of Baltimore pays its respects to the highly revered congressman.
It was his wish to give the people of his beloved city a chance to bid him farewell, the Baltimore Sun reports.
He is lying in repose at Morgan State University after proudly serving on the Board of Regents for 19 years until his death.
Rep. Cummings died at the age of 68 on October 17 at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore “due to complications concerning long-standing health challenges,” a statement released by his office confirmed at the time.
His body arrived at Morgan State’s Murphy Fine Arts Center shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday (October 23) morning, escorted by the color guard. But those that wanted to pay respects lined up at the arts center’s Gilliam Concert Hall well before his arrival for the viewing that began at 10 a.m. and will last until 5 p.m., the Sun reports.
“If you wrote or called him, I don’t know how he did it, but he responded to everyone,” Myrtle Webb, a retired principal of Hilton Elementary in Northwest Baltimore, told the Sun.
Adorned in orange Morgan State alumni sweatshirts, Webb and a friend woke up at 5 a.m. to make sure they would be one of the first to arrive.
“If you had a little gathering -- coffee and doughnuts -- he would come,” she added. “I wouldn’t miss this today for nothing.”
The former chair of the House Oversight Committee was a champion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, especially in underprivileged schools, Jonathan Wilson, director of the Science Engineering Mathematics and Aerospace Academy at Morgan State told the Sun.
In fact, Cummings helped to fund that academy by allocating and maintaining grants to strengthen students’ education to make them more competitive for scholarships, internships and jobs, Wilson said.
“All of that is the fruit of the efforts by Congressman Cummings and Senator [Barbara] Mikulski in making sure funding is there for K-12 STEM education nationally,” he told the Sun.
A highlight video of Cummings’ most memorable speeches played inside the concert hall as those paying their respects passed the late congressman, who is dressed in a navy blue suit in an open casket accompanied by a folded American flag, two large bouquets and a uniformed ceremonial honor guard, according to the Sun.
The video showed Cummings making a stand against detention centers at the Mexican border and the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, among other highlights.
His widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, shook hands and hugged well-wishers as they moved past her late husband, who she described as “an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility,” shortly after his passing.
While standing in line, waiting to pay his respects, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young told the Sun, “Elijah was more than just an elected leader. He was a public servant. He was my friend.”
Just four months before his passing, Cummings gave the commencement speech to the university’s graduates and said, “We are at a crossroads. At 68, I have now lived longer than I will live. Your lives are in front of you -- and so I beg you to go out and stand up for this democracy.”
The university’s public viewing will be followed by a special presentation by fraternal organizations, which will honor the man that became an honorary member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity in 2015.
Afterward, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., a community-wide celebration will commence, the Sun reports.
During the celebration, the Morgan State choir will perform and political and civic colleagues will give speeches, including former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and other members of the General Assembly and the presidents of Morgan State and Johns Hopkins University.
On Thursday (October 24), a private ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. at the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., will be held for members of Congress and Cummings’ relatives.
The ceremony will feature music from the Morgan State Choir and speeches by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and representatives Karen Bass of California, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, according to the Sun.
The private ceremony will be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Capitol Visitor Center.
On Friday (October 25), a final viewing will take place at 8 a.m. at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore, where Cummings was a longtime member, followed by his funeral at 10 a.m.
“I’m here for a season and a reason,” Cummings said this summer in his Capitol Hill office, sitting below framed photographs of civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King, the Sun reported.
“I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’m here,” he said. “And I’m going to make the best of it.”
(Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)