Rep. Elijah Cummings died on Oct. 17, and the internet quickly mourned him

The Internet Is Mourning Influential Democratic Leader Rep. Elijah Cummings

by Lilli Petersen
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

America has lost one of its leaders. On Thursday, Oct. 17, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings died at approximately 2:45 a.m. ET, his office announced. The congressman's death was attributed to longstanding health issues. He was 68 years old. Across America, many responded to the news by sharing their grief with tweets about Cummings' death, in which they memorialized his legacy.

In a statement shared on Twitter by ABC News Correspondent Kenneth Morton, Cummings' office said that he had died at John Hopkins Hospital due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges." The statement did not offer more details. A public statement from Cummings' wife, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, called him "an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility." The statement added, "He worked until his last breath" for the country.

Cummings, who represented Maryland's 7th District, which includes the capital city of Baltimore, had served in Congress since 1996 and was an influential leader in government. As chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, he was an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was a major figure in the impeachment inquiry around President Donald Trump.

On social media, many were shocked and saddened by the loss of a towering and influential political leader. Across the political spectrum, many shared their grief and honored his history of leadership.

Even President Trump, with whom Cummings had openly sparred over White House resistance to investigations into the president, shared a thoughtful tweet honoring Cummings.

Cummings was known as a formidable critic of the president and, as Oversight chair, led investigations into the president, his family, and his dealings. In response to White House resistance to investigation and subpoenas from the Oversight Committee in May 2019, Cummings told The New York Times that "it sounds like [Trump is] asking us to impeach him.” The president shot back by calling Cummings' home city of Baltimore a "rat and rodent infested mess," an insult which drew bipartisan condemnation. Cummings, in turn, responded that it was his "moral duty to fight for [his] constituents."

The congressman was known for his defense of his district, and drew headlines in 2015 for his actions following the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. Just hours after delivering the eulogy at Gray's funeral, Cummings took to the streets to advocate for calm during demonstrations and protests over Gray's death.

Cummings was born in Baltimore as the son of sharecroppers in 1951, and graduated from Howard University in 1973, before earning his law degree from University of Maryland School of Law in 1976. He was first elected to public office in 1983 as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years before and was the first African American person to be named speaker pro tempore. In 1996, he was elected to his congressional seat, and as of 2019 was a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as well as his chairmanship of the Oversight committee. He served from 2003-2005 as the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 108th Congress.