U.S. congressional leaders and colleagues paid tribute to Congressman Elijah Cummings Thursday as his body laid in state at the U.S. Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders joined family members to remember Cummings at an arrival ceremony in National Statuary Hall.
“Elijah was truly a master of the House. He respected its history, and in it, he helped shape America’s future,” Pelosi said of her fellow Democrat and Baltimore native. “I have called him our ‘North Star,’ our guide to a better future for our children.”
McConnell, a Republican, touted Cummings as a passionate champion of his beloved city and its majority African American population.
“Elijah Cummings did not just represent Baltimore, he embodied it. He celebrated its victories, sought to advocate for its needs, and worked to heal its wounds,” McConnell said.
Congresswoman Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Cummings was a “quiet giant,” a revered caucus member whose words were held in high regard.
“He pulled no punches,” Bass declared. “He was authentic to the core and a champion of our democracy.”
Cummings is the first African American legislator to lie in state at the Capitol, a tribute awarded only to presidents, military leaders and a few dozen other of America’s most distinguished citizens throughout the country’s history.
The public also got the chance to pay respects to Cummings later in the day in Statuary Hall.
His black casket with silver trimming was brought to Statuary Hall one day after constituents and other well-wishers praised him as his body lay in repose at Morgan State University, a historically black research university in Baltimore.
The Maryland congressman and civil rights advocate died Oct. 17 at age 68 from long-standing health issues.
As a tribute to Cummings, no votes were scheduled Thursday in the House.
A wake and funeral are planned Friday at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where the lawmaker worshipped for nearly four decades. Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will be among the speakers.
Cummings was the son of sharecroppers who became a lawyer and an elected official.
He became one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful figures at a time of increasingly deep political divisions in the country.
As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings led one of one of several House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.