Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today unveiled renderings of two signs that will be installed on the Courthouse East Building as part of a plan to rename the structure in honor of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Young also proclaimed that Jan. 18, the congressman’s birthday, will henceforth be Elijah E. Cummings Day in Baltimore City. Cummings, who died last October, would have turned 69 on Saturday.
“It is with enormous pride and with humility as mayor of this great city that I officially announce that the structure currently known as the East Courthouse Building will formally become Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse,” Young said.
If a new courthouse were built to take the place of the current one, it too would be named in honor of Cummings, the mayor said. The city council passed an ordinance last December calling for the name change, and Young signed it into law one day later.
The two short but lengthy signs were designed by Ziger/Snead Architects and will be placed on a railing near the building’s N. Calvert Street entrance. The first will have the new name of the courthouse and the second will have a likeness of Cummings and a biography spanning his time as a young boy in Baltimore and two decades in Congress.
It ends with this quote from Cummings: “From my own life experience, I can attest that we have come a long way toward universal justice in this country, but we are not there yet.”
Architect Steve Ziger said the bronze selected for the signs and gold lettering are meant to match the material of two light fixtures sitting atop the newel posts that flank the stairs leading into the building.
“The signs are designed to be progressive but timeless, strong and eloquent like the man we honor through this,” he said.
Once the signs are completed and installed, there will be another ceremony, Young said, adding it would likely be sometime in the spring.
The late lawmaker’s wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said the building is especially significant because Elijah tried cases as a lawyer in the courthouse shortly after he graduated from the University of Maryland Law School in 1976.
There were so few African-American lawyers at the time that if Cummings saw one near the courthouse, he could immediately identify who it was, she recalled him saying.
She also remembered his ability to share memories from his youth as he passed by familiar spots around town.
“For years, literally up until the months leading up to his death, he would drive the streets of Baltimore and tell stories about what happened on what corner and when in his childhood,” she said. “He literally loved the people of Baltimore, so much that it was his greatest honor and privilege to actually represent them as the Congressman representing the 7th Congressional District.”
Rockeymoore Cummings, a former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, is a candidate in the upcoming election for her late husband’s seat.
Situated near Battle Monument Square, Courthouse East was designed by James A. Wetmore to serve as a post office and federal court house, Ziger said. Congress appropriated $3 million in 1928, and the post office opened its doors four years later.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the city started using it as a courthouse, Ziger said. In 1977, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Audrey J. S. Carrion, administrative judge for Circuit Court for Baltimore City, quipped that she was happy to have a name for the courthouse that wasn’t so plain.
“I just want to thank the mayor and the city council for finally giving us a name, so we’re no longer Courthouse East,” she said. “And I cannot think of any better name than that of Elijah Cummings–such a wonderful lawyer, such a wonderful citizen of Baltimore.”
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