NATIONWIDE — U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the head of a committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, has died at 68, according to a statement from his office.
- Cummings led committee overseeing House impeachment inquiry
- He clashed publicly this year when Trump called Baltimore "rat-infested"
- He became attorney, rose to become 1st black House speaker pro tem
- SEE BELOW: President, political leaders send their condolences ▼
A Democratic giant in the political world since becoming a congressman for Maryland in 1996, the Baltimore native died from "complications" to "longstanding health challenges," at Johns Hopkins Hospital at 2:45 a.m. Thursday, the statement said.
No further details were released about the exact nature of how he died, but he had an aortic valve replacement in 2017, news reports say. He was away from Washington for a medical procedure when he died.
Cummings had a long political career and in the past few months had been in the political spotlight. Until his death, he was the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is one of a few committees overseeing the U.S. House impeachment inquiry of Trump.
Earlier this month, the White House sent a letter to Congressional Democrats, calling the impeachment probe "illegitimate" and that it would not take part in the House's inquiry.
Over the summer, Cummings and Trump went back and forth when the president said that Baltimore was a "rat and rodent infested mess" and complained how Cummings and Democratic leaders have failed American cities.
Cummings invited the president to visit, saying Baltimore is "a great community."
"Come to Baltimore. Do not just criticize us, but come to Baltimore and I promise you, you will be welcomed," he said in August.
Cummings was born on January 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
"I was devastated," Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. "My whole life changed. I became very determined."
It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983.
He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.
He is survived by Maya Rockeymoore and their three children.
A few political colleagues have shared their condolences.
"Elijah Cummings had unmatched integrity, wisdom. You couldn't spend five minutes with Elijah Cummings without feeling impacted deeply by his his guidance, by his values," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
My condolences to the family of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland who went to be with the Lord early this morning at 68 years of age.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 17, 2019
May God grant his family strength & peace in these difficult moments & his soul eternal rest.
My colleague Elijah Cummings was a patriot who served his community and his country with skill and a strong sense of purpose. He was a powerful voice in Congress in the fight against injustice, and he will be sorely missed. https://t.co/q6UFXrEoG1— Rep. Stephanie Murphy (@RepStephMurphy) October 17, 2019
He dedicated his life to righting wrong, helping the most vulnerable, and with courage and passion, fighting the good fight. To my first committee chairman, thank you Rep. Cummings for a life well lived. pic.twitter.com/QDpMLsCQaR— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) October 17, 2019
Ann & I send our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of Rep. Elijah Cummings after his sudden passing.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 17, 2019
He served the people of Maryland and our nation well for many years and will be missed on Capitol Hill. https://t.co/usHiQqSXQB
The Associated Press contributed to this story.