Elijah Cummings to lie in state at US Capitol Thursday – USA TODAY

Elijah Cummings to lie in state at US Capitol Thursday – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Rep. Elijah Cummings will lie in state on Thursday within the U.S. Capitol where he served for 23 years as a congressman, becoming one of the few African-Americans to be so honored. 

Cummings, a Democrat whose district included large sections of Baltimore, died last week at age 68 from complications related to longstanding health issues. 

He underwent a medical procedure in September that had kept him from returning to work.

A day after his death, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that Cummings would lie in state in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. A memorial service with Cummings’ family and members of Congress will be held Thursday morning at 11 a.m. EDT before a public viewing from 1-7 p.m. 

“In the House, Elijah was our North Star,” Pelosi said after Cummings’ death. “He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose.”

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Cummings would be the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, according to the Congressional Black Caucus. Two African-Americans who were not elected officials have lain in honor in the Capitol rotunda – civil rights icon Rosa Parks and Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut.  

Lying in state in the Capitol is a rare honor reserved for the nation’s “most eminent citizens,” according to the Architect of the Capitol. Just 31 people have been granted that honor, including 12 former presidents.

Last year, preacher Billy Graham was laid in honor, and former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain were laid in state. Those three were the first to be so honored since Sen. Daniel Inouye in 2012. 

Normally, the remains are placed in the Capitol rotunda, which the Architect of the Capitol says “has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute,” and members of the public wait in long lines that extend outside the Capitol to pay their respects. 

It is unclear if National Statuary Hall has been used previously for those lying in state within the Capitol. Statuary Hall is located just south of the rotunda, and it is also a large space with a domed roof. The room served as the chamber where the House of Representatives gathered from 1819 to 1857. It contains 35 of the 100 statues submitted by the states for display in the Capitol. 

Cummings’ funeral will be held Friday at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where he worshipped for nearly 40 years. 

On Wednesday, mourners paid respects to Cummings as his body lay in repose at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Cummings’ district. Cummings served on the school’s Board of Regents for 19 years. 

Enough is enough’: The moments that defined the career of Rep. Elijah Cummings

Before his death, the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman had been leading several investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration.

Cummings drew Trump’s ire as his committee prepared to subpoena the communications of the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. He also sparred with Trump after Cummings sharply criticized the administration’s handling of detained migrants. In response, Trump called the congressman a “brutal bully” and denounced Baltimore as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

At a National Press Club luncheon in August, Cummings said he wished Trump would visit Baltimore and denounced the president’s use of inflammatory rhetoric. 

“Those in the highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” he said. “It only creates more division among us and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good. As a country, we finally must say that enough is enough.” 

Contributing: The Associated Press 

More: How Elijah Cummings’ unexpected death could affect the impeachment inquiry

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