The House Oversight and Reform hearing room was named Thursday in honor of late Chairman Elijah E. Cummings — the first room in the Capitol complex to ever be named for an African American lawmaker.
The unveiling of the gold-lettered nameplate to hang above both entrances of Room 2154 in the Rayburn House Office Building drew congressional leaders, Cummings’ family, staffers and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. The Maryland Democrat died Oct. 17 during his 12th term in the House. He was 68.
Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney told the crowd that Cummings was like a gem, seemingly having his own inner light and brilliance.
“He brought us together in this room, and he is doing it again, even now,” the New York Democrat said. “This room and the work we do here will remind future generations of Elijah’s unwavering commitment to justice, as well as his dedication to stability and decorum.”
Maloney said the House Historian’s Office confirmed Cummings would be the first African American lawmaker in history to have a room named for him in the Capitol complex.
“When people walk the halls of Congress, whether they come in this room or not, they will see above the door his name, and they will know how special he was by that manifestation of respect for him,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
“Perhaps those who knew him well will say, ‘He was better than us,’” Hoyer said.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who both sparred with Cummings and considered him a close friend, spoke of his compassion and commitment to effective and efficient governing. He said he referred to Cummings as both his friend and “Chairman,” even when he was not in the majority.
When Meadows was a newcomer to the Oversight panel under Cummings’ chairmanship, “he scared me to death,” Meadows said.
As lawmakers honored Cummings, a slideshow of photos of him working on Capitol Hill played on screens on the wall.
At one point, Meadows leaned over to Rep. Jim Jordan to make sure he caught a photo of him and Cummings together on the Oversight dais. Pelosi did the same for Hoyer when a photo of him and Cummings appeared. Later, Jordan told Cummings’ daughters about them hanging out together in the House gym.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn talked about his bond with Cummings and a specific challenge that they shared.
“I talked to Elijah about growing up P.K. — preacher’s kid. It ain't easy,” Clyburn said, to laughter in the crowd.
“I grew up one. He grew up one. We talked about how tough it was sometimes to try and stay out of trouble. He succeeded much more than I did,” he laughed.
Pelosi, born and raised in Baltimore, where Cummings made his mark, called him her “Baltimore bro” and reminded everyone of his passion for the Orioles and Ravens.
She reiterated what so many members said when they eulogized him in October: that Cummings was a “North Star” and moral compass for many and a “master of the House.”