Baltimore remembers Rep. Elijah Cummings, a civil rights ic…

Baltimore remembers Rep. Elijah Cummings, a civil rights ic…

Elijah Cummings at a legislative conference. Image by AFGE licensed under Creative Commons.

Marylanders in Baltimore and beyond were stunned this morning to learn that Congressman Elijah Cummings, who had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District since 1996, had passed away at the age of 68 following complications from longstanding health problems.

Cummings became particularly well-known over the past two years as one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress, especially after taking over as Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee in January. He was targeted by Trump in a series of tweets earlier this summer attacking Cummings’ district.

Yet long before Cummings became a national household name, he was known throughout his district, which includes not just over half of Baltimore City but also much of Baltimore and Howard Counties as well, as a tireless advocate for education, civil rights, housing, and transit. Cummings was one of the most prominent backers of the ill-fated Baltimore Red Line and had voiced his support for plans to revamp and expand the Baltimore Penn Station, one of the key transit hubs in his district.

Maryland state and Baltimore City politicians are mourning Cummings, as are transit advocates who’d worked alongside him. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Delegate Brooke Lierman remembers Cummings’ commitment to equitable transportation and more:

“Like so many others, I am heartbroken over the loss of Congressman Elijah Cummings. He was the voice of moral clarity for our nation, and he never stopped working for Baltimore as well. He championed many causes, including mobility options and access to work. He understood that too often in Baltimore, people are unable to access the opportunities around them because of lack of transportation. He was instrumental in securing federal funding for the Red Line and North Avenue Rising and so many other projects. He understood and could clearly explain that building a rail line was not just tracks in the ground – it was a path to a better life and better opportunities. His is the example all public servants should try to follow. He will be sorely missed.”

Baltimore City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey spoke about his transportation leadership:

“Congressman Cummings was a consistent champion for the Red Line and transit for Baltimore City and the region, and was integral in securing federal funding to build the City’s central transportation center. And as clearly as he understood the power and necessity of transportation, he also stood with ATU 1300 and the workers without whom public transportation services would be impossible. These, of course, are but a small portion of the giant shoes he filled, but nonetheless important work we must continue to build on to honor his legacy.”

Brian O’Malley, President and CEO at Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, shared an example of Cummings’ dedication to transit and the people who depended on it:

“He showed up for riders and the Red Line. He understood why better public transportation would make a difference in the lives of his constituents and he was willing to lead when other Maryland politicians had other priorities or concerns about controversy.

As one example, he had agreed to speak at a Build the Red Line rally that Red Line Now! and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance had organized for a weekday evening in January 2015. That afternoon a member of his staff warned my colleague, Eric, that the House was still in session and we should turn on CSPAN to see for ourselves that members were still on the House floor in Washington. Also it had started to snow. Nevertheless, the Congressman got in a car with another staff member who drove him to Baltimore through the snow at rush hour. He delivered a powerful speech about how important it is for people to show up for events like the rally and fight for projects like the Red Line. Then he rushed to the waiting car to get back to DC for a fundraiser later that night. That’s an example of him showing up.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said this about Cummings on NPR Thursday morning:

“He was … always there for the real, substantive solutions that would make a difference. We had an opportunity to work with him a number of times, the Legal Defense Fund … the effort to try to bring rapid transit to black communities in Baltimore, the Red Line. That was all Elijah Cummings willing to be front and center pushing for transformation of the city. So he had a clear eye about what the problems were, but he was in the fixing business.”

Cummings’ leadership will be sorely missed.

Alex Holt is a New York state native, Maryland transplant, and freelance writer. He lives in Mt. Washington in Baltimore and enjoys geeking out about all things transit, sports, politics, and comics, not necessarily in that order.

Transportation Services Jonathan Cartu Transportor

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