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Elijah Cummings, congressman and civil rights advocate, remembered in Baltimore

Longtime Maryland congressman and civil rights leader Elijah Cummings was honored Friday at a funeral in his Baltimore hometown. Thousands of mourners, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, paid their respects to the beloved Democrat, who served in the House for 23 years. As Judy Woodruff reports, Cummings was remembered as welcoming, resilient and steadfast in his faith.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the late Maryland Congressman and civil rights leader Elijah Cummings was remembered today at a funeral in Baltimore. Thousands of mourners, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, came to pay their final respects to the Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 23 years.

    The final send-off for Congressman Cummings began early today in his hometown of Baltimore, a wall of sound from organ and choir filling the 4,000-seat New Psalmist Baptist Church, where Cummings himself worshipped for 40 years.

  • Bishop Walter Thomas:

    We prepare now for the requiem of a public servant, the Honorable Elijah Eugene Cummings.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A military honor guard covered the congressman's casket with an American flag.

    A favorite of Cummings, singer BeBe Winans, remembered him with the song "Stand." And political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, sat with members of the Baltimore community, whom Cummings served for more than two decades.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likened him to the biblical prophet whose name he bore.

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven.


  • Hillary Clinton:

    But he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes, but never lost his faith.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    She was followed by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who remembered Cummings as welcoming to everyone he encountered.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    Our Elijah always made a seat at the table for others, for even new members of Congress, so that he could mentor them, for all who wanted to be part of the American dream.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Longtime friend and former U.S. Congressman Kweisi Mfume spoke of Cummings as a faith-filled man, as profound as he was funny.

  • Kweisi Mfume:

    I would go on later that year to get elected to the city council, winning by three votes. And Elijah, who had met my grandmother, thought it was funny.

    They came to me and said: "Now, Kweisi, as long as you are black," which meant the rest of my life, "You just remember those three votes were the father, the son, and the holy ghost, and you can't go wrong."


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Cummings' daughter, Jennifer, thanked him for life lessons and shared her memories of his famous voice.

  • Jennifer Cummings:

    Thank you for loving me unconditionally and teaching me what love and leadership are by your example.

    I will miss your smile, your great big smile that could light up a room. I will miss your booming voice that would firmly sound, "Jennifer," when I knew I was in trouble.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And his wife, Maya, who chairs Maryland's Democratic Party, called her husband a public servant of integrity, and a walking miracle.

  • Maya Rockeymoore Cummings:

    He was given six months to live more than 25 years ago, and he kept going, he kept fighting, he kept standing, he kept working!


  • Judy Woodruff:

    At the service were two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Both urged those gathered to remember lessons left by Cummings.

  • President Bill Clinton:

    But we should hear him now in the quiet times at night and in the morning, when we need courage. When we get discouraged, and we don't know if we can believe anymore, we should hear him.


  • President Barack Obama:

    His life validates the things we tell ourselves about what's possible in this country, not guaranteed, but possible. We have the capacity, the chance, as individuals and as a nation, to root ourselves in good soil.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The eulogy summed up Cummings as a man of devout faith who did what he could to bring together a divided nation.

    That portrait came from the longtime pastor of Cummings' church, Bishop Walter Thomas.

  • Bishop Walter Thomas:

    He never wanted to lose what was grounded in him. And I think he brought you to church because too many in our country are forgetting where they came from.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The organ sounded as the service closed, while pallbearers wheeled Cummings' casket out for final burial.

    Elijah Cummings was 68 years old.

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