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Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, a champion for Flint, dies at 68

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

“When our city needed a champion, he fought to get answers and justice.”

That’s how Flint Mayor Karen Weaver describes Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings

Cummings died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges.  He was 68.

Cummings represented Baltimore in Maryland’s 7th Congressional district for more than 20 years.   He said he was sensitive to Flint’s water crisis in part because lead was also a problem in the neighborhood that he lived in. 

Early on in the crisis, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings was demanding answers from Governor Rick Snyder and other state and federal officials about how Flint’s water became contaminated with lead.

From his position, first, as senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, then as its chairman, Cummings demanded documents and answers from those in positions of power.

“The documents reveal failures at every level led by Gov. Snyder’s handpicked appointees and the governor’s fingerprints are all over this,” said at the opening of a congressional hearing in 2016.

Cummings said if a corporate CEO had done what Gov. Snyder had done he would have been brought up on criminal charges. 

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee says Cummings “used his voice to defend our democracy and champion justice for others.”

A sharecropper's son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that investigated President Donald Trump, and was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district that encompassed a large portion of Baltimore.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump's governmental dealings. The investigations angered the president, who criticized the congressman's district in 2019 as a "rodent-infested mess" where "no human being would want to live."

Cummings responded that government officials must stop making "hateful, incendiary comments" that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.

President Trump left aside his differences with Rep. Elijah Cummings in a brief tweet responding to the powerful Democrat's death on Thursday.

Trump's tweet said "My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. 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!"

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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