Pelosi added in a statement that she was “personally devastated” after Cummings died at the age of 68 in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“In the House, Elijah was our North Star. 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,” she said.
“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.”
The California Democrat went on to note Cummings’s rise from a humble upbringing to becoming one of the most influential and respected voices in the House, having played a pivotal role in championing civil rights and made a legislative impact on key issues.
“Chairman Cummings’ story was the story of America: a sharecroppers’ son who dedicated his life to advancing justice, respecting human dignity and ending discrimination. He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it, and he dedicated his life to advancing the values that safeguard our republic: justice, equality, liberty, fairness,” Pelosi continued.
“May Chairman Cummings’ strength guide us as we carry on his work to honor the oath and protect our democracy,” she also said.
Other top Democrats echoed Pelosi’s sentiments and prayers and condolences to his family.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who served with Cummings in the Maryland delegation for more than two decades, said he “was shocked and saddened to learn the news this morning of my dear friend’s passing.”
“Elijah Cummings was a man of principle, patriotism, and conviction, whose loss will be deeply felt throughout the State of Maryland and our country,” he also said.
Hoyer applauded Cummings’s character, noting the impact he had on those he worked with.
“He taught his colleagues how to persevere in the face of adversity, laboring through health challenges in recent years out of a love for serving his constituents and country. He taught us patience and fortitude when confronted with malice from opponents, which he answered with ‘charity for all,’” he said.
“And his faith in democracy served as a lesson to us all. When talking about the times we fell short of our Founders’ vision, Elijah would say ‘we are better than this.’ Elijah Cummings was better than most. He led the charge to make our democracy better by being better than those who would bring it low and leading by example,” Hoyer said.
Meanwhile, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) highlighted the strong connection they shared, having bonded with Cummings over shared roots in South Carolina.
“Today we have lost a giant. Elijah Cummings was a public servant to his core. He served his constituents in Maryland with dignity and grace, while defending our democracy with a sense of duty and steady strength,” he said in a statement.
“Elijah’s calm but firm hand will be missed on the Oversight Committee as it proceeds with the difficult work ahead. His dedication to fairness and his ability to navigate the choppy waters of partisanship were the hallmarks of his leadership. There will not be another leader like him,” Clyburn added.
Pelosi ordered the flags at the Capitol to half-staff Thursday morning in Cummings’s honor.