Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (left), widow of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, and artist Christopher Batten stand next to a portrait of Cummings in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins University. Photo credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University.

Leaders of the Johns Hopkins University this week paid tribute to the late Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings by installing a portrait of him in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Painted by Baltimore artist Christopher Batten, the portrait depicts Cummings against a backdrop that includes an American flag and Baltimore rowhouses.

“This portrait does not simply seek to represent a single man,” said Hopkins President Ron Daniels, at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the installation. “It is, as Elijah would have wished it to be, a portrait that captures not only what he stood for but, as importantly, who he stood for.”

A Baltimore native, Cummings passed away in October 2019 at the age of 68. Praised by Daniels as “a tireless public servant,” “steadfast champion of civil rights,” and “devoted son of Baltimore,” he was in his 12th term in the U. S. House of Representatives, serving Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. A frequent guest at Hopkins events and supporter of Hopkins initiatives, he was the featured speaker at Hopkins’ university-wide commencement ceremony in 2015 and received an honorary degree from Hopkins that year.

Born in 1951 to two sharecroppers, Cummings graduated with honors from Baltimore City College high school in 1969. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University and a law degree from the University of Maryland.

A gifted orator, Cummings served in Maryland’s House of Delegates from 1983 to 1996 and was the first Black legislator to be named speaker pro tem. Joining the House of Representatives in 1996, he represented parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County, and rose to become one of the most powerful and respected voices in Congress.

In 2019, Cummings was appointed Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and used his position to lead investigations into the administration of then-President Donald Trump. Following his death, he became the first Black legislator to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol.

According to the Johns Hopkins Hub website, this week’s ceremony was attended by Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings; other members of the Cummings family; Batten; and Hopkins faculty members, staff, students and trustees. The Notes of Ranvier, a student a cappella group, performed.

Batten’s portrait was unveiled in January at the Henderson-Hopkins School in East Baltimore, with plans at that time to move it to the Homewood campus for permanent display. Portraits created by Henderson-Hopkins students in grades K to 7 are also being shown at the Eisenhower library.

This is the second portrait of Cummings to be unveiled in the last five months. Last December, the Baltimore Museum of Art briefly displayed a portrait of Cummings by Baltimore artist Jerrell Gibbs. Gibbs’ portrait is now part of the collection of the United States Capitol.

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Ed Gunts

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