Elijah Cummings’ family includes now deceased and deeply religious parents who were South Carolina sharecroppers, a second wife who is involved in politics, and three children.
Cummings, the long-time Maryland Congressman in the 7th Congressional District, died at age 68 in the early morning hours of October 17, 2019. The exact cause of death was not released, but his office told The Baltimore Sun that he died of longstanding health problems. He had recently been hospitalized for an unspecified medical procedure.
The Baltimore Sun once reported that Cummings was the son of parents who moved to Baltimore in 1945 “leaving behind harsh lives as sharecroppers in South Carolina on land where his ancestors had been slaves.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cummings’ Wife, the Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, Said She ‘Loved Him Deeply’
Cummings is survived by his second wife, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is the chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, a position she’s held since 2018.
“Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility,” his wife said in a statement released by the Maryland Democratic Party, of which she is chair.
“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem. It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”
The Party’s statement calls Cummings a “father, a husband, a son of Baltimore and a Statesman who served Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for more than 20 years, and served 16 years prior to that as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly.”
In 2017, The Associated Press described Cummings’ wife as a consulting firm owner who once briefly entered the race for Maryland governor. She was Cummings’ second wife. She advocated for public transit and universal healthcare.
Her firm is called Global Policy Solutions. “It all began in 2005 with a question: How can we help community-based, philanthropic, governmental, and business organizations build their capacity to use policy as a tool for achieving positive social change? The answer is Global Policy Solutions, a social change strategy firm dedicated to making policy work for people and their environments,” the website for the company states.
2. Elijah Cummings’ Mother, Ruth Elma Cummings, Started a Prayer Chapel
Cummings’ mother was Ruth Elma Cummings. She died at the age of 91. “My mother was one of the smartest, most thoughtful and loving people I have ever known. She created a home for me, my dad and my six siblings where God was at the center and love overflowed,” Cummings told Afro.com when his mom died.
According to Afro.com, Ruth Cummings was one of 17 children “born to the late Willie Cochran and Gussie Johnson Cochran on July 7, 1926 in Manning, South Carolina.” She attended public schools in that state and was spiritual, explaining how she would pray while working in the fields, even to the cows.
She died in 2018. Elijah was one of her seven children. According to The Associated Press, she ran Victory Prayer Chapel, which grew out of her basement into two churches in Baltimore that serve the poor. Ruth Cummings also worked as a housekeeper.
3. Cummings’ Father, Robert Cummings Sr., Was the Son of Sharecroppers
Robert Cummings Sr. died in 2000 at the age of 74. According to his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, Elijah’s father had worked as a laborer “for 42 years with W. R. Grace before retiring in 1989.”
Robert Cummings was the son of sharecroppers who also was tasked with working in the fields when he was growing up instead of going to school.
“My father was a great inspiration to me,” Cummings told The Baltimore Sun. “He taught us nothing was impossible, despite his limited education. He spent his life believing in education and emphasized that we had to be in school every day.”
He described his dad to the newspaper as so religious that he would gather “his family around him” to pray the 23rd Psalm. Philly Trib described how Robert Cummings died of a heart attack after “giving a sermon at a women’s detention center,” and, when Elijah sorted through his belongings, he found that his dad had kept an old note he gave him. “Did you know that you’re my hero, and everything I’d like to be,” it read. “I can fly higher than an eagle because you are the wind beneath my wings.”
Elijah’s siblings were listed in his dad’s obit as Robert Cummings Jr. of Baltimore, James Cummings of Woodbridge, Va., and Charnel Cummings of Baltimore; Cheretheria Blount and Diane Woodson, both of Baltimore; and Yvonne Jennings of Hartford, Conn.
4. Cummings Was the Father of Three Children
Elijah Cummings was the father of three children. His daughters’ names are Jennifer and Adia. According to PhillyTrib, Cummings had “a daughter he had with his then-estranged wife and two children he had with other women.”
Adia ended up in the news when she used her father’s car, complete with Congressional license plates, to drive for Lyft, CNN reported.
“In an effort to earn some extra money to pay her expenses at school, she signed up for a part-time position with one of the ride-sharing companies. They, in turn, gave her a sticker to apply to the windshield of the car,” Cummings said to CNN. She later graduated from Howard University.
Jennifer Cummings is Elijah’s daughter from his first marriage. In 1999, the other two children were described by The Baltimore Sun as “two children he fathered by other women out of wedlock — a 16-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.” The third child is a son who lived in Baltimore.
Jennifer Cummings is currently the Senior Director of Communications at Business Roundtable. Little is known about Cummings’ son. Adia is an aspiring photographer, videographer, and writer. Learn more about Cummings’ kids here.
5. Cummings’ First Wife Was Named Joyce & They Lived Apart for Years; His College-Age Nephew Was Murdered
Cummings’ first wife was named Joyce Cummings. In 1999, the Baltimore Sun reported that Cummings had lived apart from his wife since 1982 without getting a divorce.
Her maiden name was Joyce Matthews. Eventually, the couple was divorced. Cummings battled financial problems throughout his life, some of which were attributed to the child support payments he made.
In 2011, Cummings’ nephew, Christopher Cummings, was murdered in an off campus Virginia apartment at age 20.
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