Artist Jerrell Gibbs stands next to the portrait he painted of the late Elijah Cummings, which will be permanently displayed in the Elijah Cummings Room, formerly the House Oversight and Reform Committee Room, in the Rayburn House Office Building of the U. S. Capitol Complex. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art/Facebook.

Nine months after Jerrell Gibbs’ portrait of the late Elijah Cummings was first shown at the Baltimore Museum of Art, it has gone on view in the nation’s capital.

U. S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume and other elected leaders and dignitaries gathered Wednesday to see Gibbs’ painting on display in the Cannon House Office Building. Its permanent home will be in the Elijah Cummings Room, formerly the House Oversight and Reform Committee Room, in the Rayburn House Office Building, part of the U. S. Capitol Complex.

Born to two sharecroppers in a segregated Baltimore in 1951, Cummings graduated with honors from City College, Howard University and the University of Maryland School of Law.

He served as U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district from 1996 until his death in October 2019. Before he was elected to Congress, Cummings served in Maryland’s House of Delegates from 1983 to 1996.

A gifted orator, Cummings was the first Black legislator to be named speaker pro tem in the Maryland House of Delegates. In the House of Representatives, where he represented parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County, he rose to become one of the most powerful and respected voices in Congress, a civil rights leader who fought for social justice, fairness, and a democracy that serves all Americans.

According to rollcall.com, he became the first African American lawmaker to have a room named for him in the Capitol complex, when Rayburn’s Room 2154 was named for him in 2020.

Cummings’ portrait was commissioned by his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, in March 2021. The Baltimore Museum of Art helped select the artist and displayed the portrait briefly last December, ahead of its move to Washington. It is now officially part of the collection of the U. S. Capitol Historical Society.

The work is oil on canvas and measures 36 inches by 48 inches, unframed. Its title is “I Only Have A Minute, 60 Seconds In It…” According to the museum, the painting was inspired by Baltimore-based photographer Justin Gellerson’s image on the cover of Cummings’ memoir, “We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy.”

Journalist April Ryan served as Mistress of Ceremonies for Wednesday’s event, which was shown on C-SPAN. In addition to Pelosi; Hoyer; Mfume; Gibbs and Rockeymoore Cummings, speakers included U. S. Representatives James Clyburn; Carolyn Maloney; James Comer and former Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The portrait was unveiled to invited guests by Cummings’ daughters, Jennifer and Adia.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.