The casket bearing the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings was carried Thursday into the U.S. Capitol where he laid in state, becoming just the third black man to receive that honor.
Lawmakers and dignitaries from both sides of the political divide paid respects to Mr. Cummings, who served more than 20 years in Congress and chaired of the House Oversight Committee.
He was praised as a giant among lawmakers and a moral “North Star” for those on either side of the aisle.
In a highly emotional tribute, former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows remembered his “unexpected” but true friendship with Mr. Cummings — who he often sparred with on the Oversight committee.
“He had a smile that would consume his whole face, you know that, but he also had eyes that would pierce through anybody that was standing in his way,” the North Carolina Republican said.
“Perhaps this place and this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships. I know I was blessed with one,” he added.
Mr. Cummings rested Thursday in Statuary Hall. He was given the designation of “lie in state” — one of the highest honors — by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. He lies on the same catafalque that President Abraham Lincoln did.
“Elijah was truly a master of the House,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “He respected its history and in it, he helped shape America’s future. I have called him our North Star, our guide to a better future for our children.”
He is the first black elected official to be given the honor and only the third black person to lie in state in American history. The last was civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005.
According to the Architect of the Capitol, only 34 individuals have laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda dating back to 1852. Most recently, former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, were given that honor.
The Baltimore Democrat died at the age of 68 last week after long-standing health issues.
Mr. Cummings, the son of sharecroppers who became an attorney, was first elected to Congress in 1996 and was known for his commitment to fighting for civil rights throughout his life.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Mr. Cummings‘ commitment to his district, recounting how in 2015 the congressman would travel from the Capitol and Baltimore every day during the 2015 riots and walk the streets of the city at night.
“There are some who come to Washington because they’re ambitious to leave their hometowns. And then there are people who want to come to Washington precisely because they will never leave their hometowns behind,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Elijah Cummings did not just represent Baltimore, he embodied it.”
As the head of the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings led Democrats this year in their fight against large pharmaceutical companies and challenging the Trump administration’s immigration policies on the border.
Mr. Cummings was also spearheading several investigations into the Trump administration as well as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry centered on allegations of abuse of power regarding Ukraine.
Mr. Cummings will be buried in Baltimore on Friday.
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