I woke up early today to a text message on the sad news that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D. MD) passed early this morning. Elijah was a husband to Maya Rockeymoore, father, brother, lawmaker and friend to many persons, including myself. Just about everyone in Baltimore has an Elijah Cummings story. I am no exception. Many persons call Rep. Cummings by first name as he gave the impression that he was everyone’s friend. For this article, I will refer to him as I knew him—simply as Elijah.
I first met Elijah when I graduated from law school. I didn’t know lawyers with whom I could seek advice. I personally didn’t know any lawyers. Elijah was a family friend who agreed to meet with me to discuss preparing for the Maryland bar exam and on becoming a lawyer. I expected it to be a one- time meeting. However, it turned into a lifetime of mentorship to me. He assisted me with tips on taking and passing the bar exam. I believe that due to his mentorship, I passed the Maryland bar on the first try. Elijah was committed to seeing that more minority students pass the bar exam. Maryland had a notoriously low pass rate for African Americans.
Elijah is the type of person that once he meets you, he genuinely wants to stay connected. Over a few decades, he stayed connected with me. When I moved to Washington, D.C. after serving as a Baltimore prosecutor, he remained in touch to see how my career was progressing. When I shared my passion with him of doing media work to speak out on injustices, he was there to assist me with communications advice.
Elijah was the quintessential Baltimorean. He loved people and never missed an opportunity to help whenever needed. He viewed himself as a son of Baltimore. And when the Baltimore unrest occurred in the aftermath of Freddy Gray’s killing, Elijah walked the streets of Baltimore with clergy to assist to calm the city. Once the unrest subsided, Elijah was there to sweep the streets of debris. How many Congress persons do you ever see sweeping the streets of their city and district? I suspect the answer is none.
The loss to Baltimore and the country is unmeasurable. As Congressman Adam Schiff stated:
“Elijah was the heart and soul of our caucus, a dignified leader with a voice that could move mountains. He was often the first to call to offer a kind word, a suggestion, or posit a way forward on the trickiest of issues. And it was Elijah who we turned to most when we needed guidance or help.”
“Elijah was our moral and ethical North Star, always shining bright and clear. Now we will be guided by his powerful memory and incomparable legacy. Rest in Peace, my friend.”
Elijah Cummings well served his district, his family, colleagues and his country. In doing so, he helped to make the world a better place by his presence. May his legacy continue to live on in all others that he served, supported and mentored.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore City prosecutor.