At funeral services for Rep. Elijah Cummings on Friday, the late congressman was memorialized by not only people in the community he served but by the statesmen he worked with through his career.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were among the speakers for the Maryland lawmaker’s service at Baltimore’s New Psalmist Baptist Church, where he worshipped for nearly four decades.
“Elijah Cummings came from good soil,” Obama said in his eulogy, ABC News reports. “A leader who once said he’d die for his people even as he lived every minute for them. His life validates the things we tell ourselves about what’s possible in this country — not guaranteed, but possible.”
Several hundred people lined up at dawn outside the church, waiting for the doors to open. Cummings’ flag-draped casket arrived at the church shortly after 6 a.m. An honor guard of service members walked in the casket as people lining up to enter the sanctuary watched quietly and respectfully in the low light of early morning.
The open casket was placed in the front of the sanctuary with wreaths on either side and an American flag folded in a triangle to the left. Around 8 a.m., mourners began filling the 4,000-seat sanctuary.
Obama noted that while hearing Cummings’ daughters speak at the funeral, “I was thinking I’d want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I’d also want them to know that being a strong man also means being kind, that there’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion.
“There’s nothing weak about looking out for others,” he said. “There’s nothing weak about being honorable. You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”
Obama went on to describe Cummings as “honorable” even “before he was elected to office.” He added, “There’s a difference if you are honorable and treated others honorably outside the limelight,” he said.
Speakers at New Psalmist also included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Elijah Cummings spend his whole life saying, ‘Send me,'” said former President Bill Clinton. “Everybody could see he was the real deal. … No matter how hard he fought and how hard he argued, he treated everybody how he wanted to be treated.”
Clinton then pointed down at Cummings’ casket and said, “I love this man. I love every minute I ever spent with him, every conversation we ever had, I love his booming voice, but we should hear him now in the quiet times at night and in the morning when we need courage.”
Cummings died Oct. 17 at age 68 of complications from longstanding health problems. A son of sharecroppers, he became a lawyer and elected official known for his powerful oratory and advocacy for the poor in his congressional district and beyond.