'He led from his soul': Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton remember Elijah Cummings in Baltimore

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

Former presidents and world leaders delivered powerful eulogies on Friday at the funeral for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who died on Oct. 17 at age 68.

Barack Obama was among them.

“Elijah Cummings came from good soil,” the former president said at the service, which was held at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore. “And in this sturdy frame, goodness took root.”

Obama pointed out that Cummings was the son of sharecroppers.

“They were the proverbial salt of the earth,” he said. “They passed on that strength and that grit but also that kindness and that faith to their son.”

Obama recalled meeting Cummings’s mother, Ruth.

“She told me she prayed for me every day. And I knew it was true,” he said. “Sometimes people say they’re praying for you, and you don’t know. They might be praying about you, but you don’t know if they’re praying for you. But I knew Miss Ruth was telling the truth.”

Former President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral for Rep. Elijah Cummings in Baltimore on Friday. (Photo: Julio Cortez/AP)

Obama noted the late congressman was referred to as the Honorable Elijah Cummings.

“This is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office,” he said. “We’re supposed to introduce them as honorable. But Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office. There's a difference."

Former President Bill Clinton, who spoke before Obama, said Cummings’s legacy will be “how ardently he honored his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

On Thursday, Cummings became the first African-American lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol.

“Elijah brought people together,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Yesterday’s service was very bipartisan. In fact, it took bipartisan agreement for Elijah to lie in repose on the same catafalque that Abraham Lincoln lay in repose.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first to deliver a eulogy at the service. She remembered Cummings as “a great man, a moral leader and a friend.”

Clinton compared Cummings to the Prophet Elijah from the Old Testament.

“Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven,” she said. “But he also prayed and worked for healing.”

“He liked to remind all of us that you can’t get so caught up in who you are fighting that you forget what you are fighting for,” Clinton added. “Even his political adversaries recognized that it wasn’t really about politics for our Elijah. He led from his soul.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the funeral service. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump, who feuded with Cummings after disparaging the city of Baltimore earlier this year, did not attend the funeral.

Several 2020 presidential hopefuls — Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden — were in attendance, but only Warren spoke.

Bishop Walter S. Thomas Sr. explained that the speakers had been chosen by Cummings himself.

“Elijah wrote his funeral program and determined who he wanted to do what,” he said to the assembled dignitaries. “Some of you may be wondering why you are not doing anything, so I wanted to give you clarity.”

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