Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D., Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, died on Thursday morning, according to his spokeswoman.
Cummings was 68 years old. His death was a result of “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” said the spokeswoman without going into further detail.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi eulogized Cummings in remarks to reporters at the Capitol building.
“He lived the American dream and he wanted it for everyone else,” said Pelosi. “He spoke with unsurpassed clarity and moral integrity when he spoke on the floor.”
As head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the congressman was a key figure in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. He deemed Trump’s efforts to stymie the impeachment investigation “far worse than Watergate.”
Cummings served in the House starting in 1996, when he won a special election after his predecessor resigned to become the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His district encompassed most of West Baltimore and some outlying suburbs.
Cummings was born and raised in Baltimore, the son of sharecroppers who moved to the city to improve their living prospects. He worked as an attorney as well as serving in the Maryland House of Delegates before being elected to the House.
In 2015, after Baltimore resident Freddie Gray died in police custody, Cummings delivered Gray’s eulogy and proceeded to walk through the streets with a bullhorn as riots erupted, appealing for calm.
In July of this year, Cummings attacked President Trump over conditions in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities on the border with Mexico. Trump responded by calling Cummings’s district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” attacks that some deemed racist.
Cummings’s district has a $58,000 median income and is the second-wealthiest majority-African American district in the nation.
On Thursday, however, Trump eulogized Cummings.
“My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings,” Trump tweeted. “I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader.”
“Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics,” wrote former Republican representative Trey Gowdy on Twitter. “The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs.”