U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a longtime Baltimore congressman known for his devotion to social and political justice, died early Thursday at the age of 68, according to his office.
Cummings (D-Md.) passed away around 2:45 a.m. at Gilchrist Hospice Care, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Hospital, due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” a spokesperson said.
The congressman, who had been largely absent from Capitol Hill in recent weeks after undergoing a medical procedure, had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional district for more than two decades, serving 12 terms in the U.S. House. As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings was at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The Baltimore Sun reported the lawmaker hadn’t participated in a roll call since Sept. 11. He failed to return to work after undergoing a medical procedure that was only expected to keep him away for a week.
“I am recovering following my medical procedure and remain in constant communication with my staff and my colleagues in the Congress,” he told the newspaper in late September. “My doctors anticipate I’ll be returning to Washington, D.C., when the House comes back into session in two weeks.”
Cummings’ office didn’t disclose what sort of procedure he had.
The former state delegate had suffered health issues in recent years and was using a motorized scooter to get around Capitol Hill in the last few months, NBC News reported. In 2017, he had an aortic valve replaced in a “minimally invasive” surgery used to correct narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart.
On Thursday, fellow politicians, friends, constituents and the like paid tribute to the late congressman with kind words and condolences.
California Rep. Adam Schiff wrote on Twitter: “Elijah Cummings was the heart and soul of our caucus, a dignified leader with a voice [that] could move mountains. He was our moral and ethical North Star. Now we’ll be guided by his powerful memory and incomparable legacy. Rest In Peace, my friend.”
Presidential hopeful and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker described Cummings as a “true leader” and “passionate fighter for justice.”
He was “a powerful voice of moral conscience in our government who served his country for decades with dignity and integrity,” Booker wrote. “I’m blessed to have known him. #RIPElijah”
“Thank you, @RepCummings,” wrote Rev. Bernice King, daughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “What a life of passionate service and courage. My heartfelt condolences to your wife, your family, the City of Baltimore, the United States and the world.”
Cummings’ passing even drew a response from Trump, 73, who excoriated the Democratic rep earlier this year and smeared his Baltimore district as a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” The president changed his tune Thursday, offering his “warmest condolences” to Cummings’ family and friends.
“I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader,” Trump tweeted, adding, “His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!”
This got extra weird, however, when folks began posting photos of Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a close friend and lookalike of Cummings, while paying tribute to the late lawmaker. By early morning, Lewis (D-Ga.) had replaced Cummings as the top trending topic on Twitter, as people shamelessly confused the two Black congressmen.
“I do not have the patience for people who confuse Elijah Cummings and John Lewis today. Or ever,” activist Brittany Packnett opined.
Actor Bill Corbett hilariously warned, “fellow white people, please do not embarrass yourselves today by confusing Rep. Elijah Cummings with Rep. John Lewis.”
A picture with Elijah Cummings (left) and John Lewis (right) but guess what the internet is gonna do anyway, despite having Google. pic.twitter.com/DBvnTEfMjb
— Your Best Friend's Black Friend (@IAmStatMatt) October 17, 2019
“I bet a lot of people confusing Elijah Cummings with John Lewis are inexplicably able to tell female Fox News correspondents apart,” an equally frustrated user wrote.
Others, like producer Manny Fidel, urged national media outlets not to make the same glaring mistake: “I am begging you.”
Funeral plans for Rep. Cummings have yet to be announced.