Even in death, the legendary Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings will be making Black history.
It was announced over the weekend that the late Congressman from Baltimore who died last week was going to be lying in state in the U.S. Capitol’s Rotunda. The honor has typically been reserved for the most revered of national dignitaries, criteria that Cummings fits perfectly. But one factor that makes Cummings an unlikely candidate for the treatment is the fact that he was a Black man.
In nearly 170 year of using the Capitol Rutunda “as a place to pay tribute to the Nation’s most distinguished citizens,” there have apparently only been two total Black people given that esteemed treatment, according to a list of “ Cummings was set to be the third.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Friday that Cummings would be lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
“In the House, Elijah was our North Star,” Pelosi said in a statement. “He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose. His principled leadership as chair of the committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.”
Cummings will lie in state in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol on Wednesday.
According to the New York Times, before Cummings, the only other two Black people to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda were civil rights champion Rosa Parks in 2005 and Capitol Police Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut, who was killed in the line of duty, in 1998. That would make Cummings the first Black elected official ever to receive the distinguished honor.
Cummings’ wake and funeral have been scheduled to take place two days later in Baltimore’s New Psalmist Baptist Church, which is the church where the Congressman worshiped for nearly four decades. The wake, including a public viewing, will begin at 8 a.m. and the funeral will follow at 10 a.m., both on Friday.
Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Jr., who has been the pastor since 1975, will deliver the eulogy.
Cummings became a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 1983 and by 1996 he was the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland’s 7th District, where he served for more than 20 years.