Elijah Cummings honored at dignitary-packed funeral, as eulogies take political turn

The late Elijah Cummings, the powerful and long-serving Baltimore congressman who rose to chair the House Oversight Committee, was honored at a dignitary-packed funeral Friday where eulogies praised his mastery of Congress and commitment to constituents -- but also took a political turn with implicit swipes at the Trump administration.

Cummings died last week due to complications from “longstanding health challenges,” his office said. He was 68.


The funeral brought out past presidents, a day after he was honored at the U.S. Capitol.

“From the state house to the House of Representatives, his commitment to justice and the rights of others would never waver,” former President Barack Obama said in his eulogy.

Calling him “the very honorable Elijah Cummings,” Obama went on to say, “There's nothing weak about being honorable. You're not a sucker to have integrity and treat others with respect."

Former President Bill Clinton said of Cummings: “I loved this man. I loved every minute I ever spent with him. I loved his booming voice. We should hear him now in the quiet times when we get discouraged.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Democratic lawmaker as a "great man, moral leader, and a friend," while comparing him to the Old Testament prophet of the same name.

"Our Elijah, like the prophet, could call down fire from heaven," Hillary Clinton said. "But he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes but never lost his faith."

But extending the comparison, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who may or may not be weighing a third presidential run next year went on to take an apparent jab at President Trump -- whom Cummings was investigating in his role as oversight committee chairman.

"Like that Old Testament prophet, he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel," Hillary Clinton said.

The line drew loud applause from the chamber, as she later raised the question of what Americans can do to "make sure we kept our democracy in tact."

But in between the politically tinged lines were dedications to Cummings' legacy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him the "north star" of Congress.

"His integrity and character, his can-do spirit, made him a guiding light in the Congress," Clinton similarly said. "He pushed back against the abuse of power. He was unwavering in his defense of our democracy, he had little tolerance for those who put party before country or partisanship before truth."

"He lifted up the next generation of leaders, he even worked a few miracles," Clinton said. "And he kept reminding us life is no dress rehearsal. The American people want to live their lives without fear of their leaders and as leaders, we have a responsibility to keep the promises made when running for office to make the lives of Americans better."

His wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, praised Cummings’ work on the Oversight Committee in defending Democrats against Republican investigations, jokingly referring to him as Obama’s “chief defense attorney.”

"But you didn't have any challenges like we got going on now," she told Obama.

Rockeymoore Cummings also said her husband "spent many an hour" defending Hillary Clinton "against spurious claims." Referencing his work during the Trump era, Rockeymoore Cummings went on to claim her husband had to "work to fight for the soul of our democracy against very real corruption.”

Friday's funeral took place at a Baptist church in Baltimore. Cummings, on Thursday, laid in state at the Capitol, where members of both parties spoke in remembrance of the longtime lawmaker.

Cummings did not return to work after an undisclosed medical procedure that he said would only keep him away from the Capitol for about a week. Cummings reportedly had heart surgery in 2017 and had a bacterial infection in his knee.

Cummings was known for driving himself back and forth from Baltimore and Washington—sometimes multiple times a day—to make committee hearings, floor votes and tend to issues in his district.

In the House, Cummings, D-Md., had built a substantial power base. At the time of his death, he was chairman of the Oversight Committee and a leading voice in the Congressional Black Caucus. He played a key role in the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.