FILE - In this Sunday, March 30, 2003 file photo, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks about affirmative action, accompanied by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., left, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, during a church service at Community of Faith Church in Houston. “Although Congressman Cummings was not a preacher in the sense of being ordained and licensed, him being a preacher’s kid made him pretty close and made him very comfortable with ministers and clergy _ to a point where in many respects many of us in the clergy community, in the African-American community, almost regarded him as a preacher,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, senior pastor of Detroit’s Historic King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church. (AP Photo/Michael Stravato)

DETROIT (AP) — To many black clergy, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings was more than a formidable orator, civil rights champion and passionate public servant.

He was also one of them — in practice, if not profession.

Ministers and historians say Cummings, son of a sharecropper and pastors who died last Thursday at 68, is one of the last leaders from a generation forged by the African American church and its concentrated influence on society during the Civil Rights era.

Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents.

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas of Union Theological Seminary says Cummings' actions embodied the black church "at its best."

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, congressional staff members gather at the Capitol to raise awareness of the recent killings of black men by police officers, both of which did not result in grand jury indictments, in Washington. They are joined by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., second from left, and Senate Chaplain Barry Black, far right. The walkout came as both houses of Congress attempt to pass a spending measure and avert government shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 1998 file photo, President Clinton, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., center, and Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, left, participate in church services at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md. Clinton urged members of the church Sunday to turn out in large numbers and support his party's candidates on Election Day. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
FILE - In this Monday, May 17, 2004 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., stands with U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, left, and Leadership Conference on Civli Rights Executive Director Wade Henderson, right, at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education decision in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FILE - In this Monday, May 17, 2004 file photo, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, speaks with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., before a funeral for Freddie Gray at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
FILE - In this Monday, April 27, 2015 file photo, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., pauses as he addresses mourners at a funeral for Freddie Gray at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. Cummings, the son of a sharecropper and pastors who died last Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 at 68, was among a generation of lawmakers, civil rights leaders and social justice advocates who grew up under the influence of the African American church. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)