Hilary Clinton, among many others, offered a eulogy. Pool photos/Getty
Rep. Elijah Cummings, warrior for good, master of the House, "our forever chairman" and beloved son of Baltimore was celebrated Friday in an almost four-hour ceremony at the city’s New Psalmist Baptist Church, where he occupied a front-row pew for almost 40 years. Cummings died suddenly on Oct. 17 at age 68 of cancer and other ailments. At the poignant funeral, thousands of residents listened and wept as former presidents, Congressional colleagues, Democratic presidential candidates, family and friends honored, in bracingly full sentences, the sharecropper's son and statesman who always stood up to wrongdoing and held fast to his decency, integrity, empathy and dedication to public service. “Our Elijah was a fierce champion of truth, justice and kindness in every part of his life,” said Hilary Clinton. "He led from his soul.” President Obama recalled his humble beginnings and told the story of Cummings' father, a sharecropper, taking the young boy to a nearby airport to watch planes take off, even though he'd never been in one; he told his son, "I may not fly, but you will one day."
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Cummings' longtime pastor Bishop Walter Thomas Sr. cited Cummings' "unshakeable faith"; Cummings said he came to church every Sunday so he could "recognize my failures and claim my possibilities.""He's the Congressman, but to members he is Brother Elijah Cummings," Thomas said. "He's one of us." Most movingly, Cummings' widow, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said in his last months of life Cummings was often in pain from both his illnesses and the personal attacks he endured. Though "he carried himself with grace and dignity," she said, "I want you all to know that it was not easy." Always, and especially at the end, her husband was engaged in “a fight for the soul of our democracy." The day before the funeral, Cummings became the first black lawmaker to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. His widow acknowledged he might have resisted the honor, but she was determined to see him receive his due. "They were trying to tear him down, and we needed to make sure he went out with the respect and the dignity he deserved," she declared. "He was a man of utmost integrity. Do you hear me?" May he rest in peace and power.