The son of a sharecropper brought Washington together in mourning Thursday — at least for a day.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the iconic Baltimore Democratic congressman who died last week at 68, lay in state at Statuary Hall in the Capitol and earned plaudits from political friends and foes alike.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remembered Cummings as the “North star” of the increasingly divided Congress.
“Elijah was truly a master of the House,” she said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Cummings, a frequent political opponent, to his unshakable devotion to his hometown. McConnell recalled that Cummings grabbed a bullhorn and hit the streets of Baltimore to calm riots after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
“Now our distinguished colleague truly has gone home,” McConnell said.
Ordinary people lined up to pay their respects to Cummings, the first African-American lawmaker awarded the honor of lying in state, later Thursday.
The House has suspended all official business, including depositions in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, for the rest of the week.
Cummings served as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, helping lead the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct until he died Oct. 17 from what his family described as complications from long-standing health problems.
Despite his role as a Democratic leader, Cummings forged unusual friendships across the partisan divide, including with conservative GOP Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)
Bowing his head in sadness, Meadows said he was blessed to know Cummings, adding: “Perhaps this place and this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships.”
Trump famously blasted Cummings in life and launched an unseemly attack on his hometown as a rodent-infested wasteland. But even the president praised his rival after his sudden death.
Cummings, whose parents moved north to Baltimore to escape racism and poverty, is the first black person ever accorded the honor of lying in state at the Capitol, a tribute that has been only been granted to a few dozen statesmen, presidents and military leaders in U.S. history. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks was lain in honor there after her death in 2005.
President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton are expected to speak at Cummings’ funeral Friday in Baltimore.