None of the Cub Scouts in Elijah Cummings’ pack could afford a full uniform. So, in true Scouting fashion, they improvised — cobbling together uniform pieces at bargain shops and the local Salvation Army. Some boys bought unofficial iron-on patches and cut out the numbers to iron onto their left sleeves.
The picture above “shows the only thing I was able to find, which was a belt,” Cummings told the BET in 2014. “As a matter of fact, that’s a Boy Scout belt, and even though I was in the Cub Scouts then, I was so proud of that belt. As you can see, I wasn’t a fashion guru, but we did the best we could with what we had.”
Wanting to ensure that all young people could enjoy the Cub Scouting program he loved as a boy, Cummings devoted nearly a decade of his life to the BSA’s Baltimore Area Council.
“He had a vested interest in inner-city Scouting and frequently visited units in Baltimore city to show his support and teach youth about citizenship,” says Baltimore Area Council Scout Executive Brian Steger.
Cummings, a civil rights advocate, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and fervent supporter of the benefits that Scouting can bring to at-risk youth, died Oct. 17. He was 68.
Today, as we’ve done with other prominent national leaders who championed Scouting during their lives — names like Ross Perot, George H.W. Bush and James Brady — we take a moment to remember the legacy of this Scouting supporter.
It began in Cub Scouts
Cummings told the BET that the photo with his younger brother is his favorite picture “because it reminds me so much of how far I’ve come and that we do grow up.”
Born a sharecropper’s son in 1951, a grade school teacher once told Cummings he was too slow to become a lawyer. Cummings, whose interest in law came from watching the TV show Perry Mason, was devastated — but only temporarily.
“My whole life changed,” he told the Associated Press in 1996. “I became very determined.”
Cummings went on to become a lawyer, then a judge, then a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1996.
A passion for Scouting
Cummings was a congressman when he accepted a spot on the Baltimore Area Council’s board of directors.
He served in that role from 1999 until 2008, becoming an impassioned voice for making Scouting accessible to as many young people as possible.
He accomplished this both through his board seat and by using his notoriety to bring more attention to Scouting.
“Rep. Cummings regularly lent his name to raise awareness of all that Scouting has to offer,” says Steger, the council executive. “He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.”
In addition to serving on the Baltimore Area Council board, Cummings served on the boards of the Baltimore City Historical Society, National Aquarium and Baltimore Zoo.
Thanks to Manny Fonseca and Devon McKercher of the Baltimore Area Council for the additional info.