House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, one of the most influential Democrats in Congress and a key figure in supporting the maritime industry and United States Coast Guard, died on Thursday at age 68.
The cause of death was “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said in a statement. Cummings had been absent recently from Congress due to health concerns including heart and knee problems.
The son of sharecroppers, Cummings obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Howard University, serving as Student Government President and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. Congressman Cummings has received 13 honorary doctoral degrees and numerous maritime industry and Coast Guard awards.
Congressman Cummings was a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, serving on both of the Subcommittees on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. He was a vocal advocate for the Jones Act and mariner safety.
More recently Cummings lead the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, where Cummings clashed with Trump over multiple probes involving the Republican president, from his personal finances to possible abuses at federal agencies.
The oversight committee is one of three congressional panels leading impeachment proceedings that were launched on Sept. 24 after Trump asked Ukraine to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.
Despite their differences, Trump issued condolences to Cummings family and friends.
“I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!” President Trump said on Twitter.