Mourners bid a final farewell Friday to the late U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings in his hometown of Baltimore.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were among those who paid tribute to the lawmaker and civil rights advocate at New Psalmist Baptist Church, where he worshipped for nearly four decades.
Obama told the audience that Cummings was a most "honorable" man.
"This is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office. We're supposed to introduce them as honorable, but Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office. There's a difference," Obama said.
Strength includes kindness
The former president also said that “I tell my daughters … being a strong man includes being kind. That there's nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There's nothing weak about looking out for others."
Clinton professed his love for Cummings and said, "His legacy is how ardently he honored his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
In an apparent reference to the deepening political divisions in the U.S. after the 2016 presidential election, Clinton added, "You can't run a free society if you have to hate everybody you disagree with."
Cummings' bishop, Walter S. Thomas, delivered the eulogy.
Cummings black casket with silver trim was brought to his church in West Baltimore before dawn Friday, one day after U.S. congressional leaders and colleagues honored Cummings as his body lay in state at the U.S. Capitol.
Cummings was the first African American legislator to lie in state at the Capitol, a tribute awarded only to presidents, military leaders and other distinguished citizens throughout the country's history.
His open casket was positioned in the front of the sanctuary with wreaths on both sides before mourners began filling the 4,000-seat church shortly after daybreak. An American flag folded in a triangle was placed on the left side before a military honor guard unfolded it over the coffin.
The lawmaker's widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, sat in the front row, flanked by Obama and Clinton.
Attacks on hometown
In addressing the audience, Maya Cummings said it was imperative for her husband to be honored at the Capitol after attacks by President Donald Trump on Cummings' hometown that "hurt him" and made the last months of his life more arduous.
Earlier this year, Trump described Baltimore, which the lawmaker represented, as a "rat-infested" city no one would want to call home.
"They were trying to tear him down, and I felt he needed to go out with the respect and dignity he deserved," she declared.
The solemn crowd roared and applauded as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was introduced and approached the podium to begin the service.
He 'worked for healing'
"It is no coincidence, is it, that Elijah Cummings shared a name with an Old Testament prophet?'' Clinton asked. "Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven. But he also prayed and worked for healing. He weathered storms and earthquakes but never lost his faith."
Also attending the celebration of Cummings' life were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar; civil rights icon U.S. Representative John Lewis; U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
It was not clear whether Trump was invited to the funeral.
The Maryland congressman and civil rights champion died Oct. 17 at age 68 from long-standing health issues.
Cummings was the son of sharecroppers and rose to become a lawyer and an elected official. He became one of the Democratic Party's most powerful figures at a time of increasingly deep political divisions in the country.
As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings led one of several House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s presidency.