'Stories of Elijah': UB Remembers Rep. Cummings
October 18, 2019
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
With the passing of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the University of Baltimore community is looking back at the life of this monumental pubic servant—and taking the measure of his impact on the city, the University, and so much more. These are just some of the accolades and memories that have been coming in:
Kurt L. Schmoke, UB president, former Baltimore mayor, and, like Rep. Cummings, a native of the city: "He and I were great friends since our days at Baltimore City College High School." Recalling the photo on this page, likely taken in 1997 after Cummings was elected to the House of Representatives for Maryland's 7th District, Pres. Schmoke says: "This photo reflects the fact that most often, Elijah was a happy warrior. He fought hard for many causes, but he was always prepared to offer that winning smile that conveyed how much he cared about the people whom he met."
William H. Cole IV, M.A. '96, former city councilman, state delegate and president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, and currently a partner with Margrave Strategies: "I was probably 23 years old and working for Elijah, who was newly elected to Congress. I picked him up in my car one morning and he told me to drive him to the office on a route that took us completely out of our way. He wanted to show me some neighborhoods I'd never seen before. I think we were down around Sandtown when he told me to pull over—somebody had been dumping trash in a lot. He called City Hall about it, right there. So even though he was in that heady space of being a Congressman, he was always concerned with 'his' Baltimore. That was him: If you needed help, he gave it. If he was hard on you as a witness in front of his committee, he'd be the first to put his arm around you after the hearing. This was a very principled man. I was always astounded by him, and that's more true than ever now."
Ann Cotten, director of the University's Schaefer Center for Public Policy: "I was thrilled when Congressman Cummings was selected to receive our inaugural William Donald Schaefer Award in recognition of his dedication to to improving the lives of people in Baltimore and across Maryland. It was such a special evening as we remembered the legacy of Gov. Schaefer and celebrated the impact of his life of public service."
Keenen Geter, B.A. '13, a member of the advance team for Sen. Kamala Harris's presidential campaign and a city native: "He would tell me, 'Keenen, through your pain, you will find your passion, and through your passion, you will find your purpose,'" Geter told The Baltimore Sun. "He understood that as a congressman, as an African American male, it was almost his duty, his responsibility, to care for our young people in Baltimore City. He said you can do anything and be anything you set your mind to."
Roger Hartley, dean of the UB College of Public Affairs: "Many of our alumni have worked for Elijah in constituent services, and he came to speak to our students in a class. I was so impressed, too, that he brought his committee on oversight to Baltimore to have a hearing on the opioid crisis. The thing I loved most about him is his inspiring, eloquent, defense of public service and the people who do the work in government to change lives. He charged our students with a spirit of service. He would say that government is not politics, winning and losing, but service to people. Our differences in politics should be about how we make better policy, and those differences should respect the end goal of improving lives. Rep. Cummings's work as chairman was dedicated to rooting out corruption that destroys trust in the very good work that public servants do. He had friends across the aisle in tackling these issues. I feel that we have lost a defender of public service, but he sure inspired my students to use their voice in the same way."
Michael Higginbotham, the Dean Joseph Curtis Professor of Law in the UB School of Law: "In September 1998, a first-term Congressmen reached out to give me some needed support and some necessary wisdom. I had recently appeared on C-SPAN television and was very critical of Justice Clarence Thomas who I believed was harming civil rights through his decisions. The conservative media machine was particularly harsh and disrespectful in its comments. Congressmen Cummings contacted me and explained that he had watched the show and agreed with my criticism of Thomas. He added, 'Your principles must be your north star. Stay true to your principles and you will never get lost.' Indispensable wisdom I have carried with me ever since."
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, J.D. '70, Hon. LL.D. '99: "Congressman Cummings and I would often tour local businesses, universities, factories and the like together. It usually starts with conversation at a conference table with the principles, but Congressman Cummings always made it a point to seek out the lower-level employees and ask them for their opinion. He wanted the janitor to know he was as valued as the executive. Even with all the national attention Congressman Cummings received as Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, he never stopped fighting for Baltimore and the little man. People were his priority."
Ronald Weich, dean of the UB School of Law: "Before I came to UB I served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, and had an opportunity to work with Congressman Cummings on national security legislation and other significant matters. On one occasion I testified before the House Oversight Committee, where Cummings was a senior member. After the then-chairman of the committee questioned me in unusually harsh terms, Congressman Cummings apologized to me on behalf of the committee—much to the chairman's dismay! It was a rare moment in Congress, and I have proudly shown a video of the exchange to students in my Legislation class at UB."