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January 8, 2020 Beyond The Dash

The Top 5 Political Deaths of 2019

A year in US political deaths

The Top 5 Political Deaths of 2019
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 10: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) (L) announced his endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) during a campaign rally at City Garage April 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Voters will head to polling places for Maryland's presidential primary April 26. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

2019 marked the loss of several political figures. As we begin a new year, let's take a moment to pause and remember those who dedicated their lives influencing the political outcomes of their communities — for better, or for worse.

1. Elijah Cummings

Read Elijah Cumming's full obituary story on Beyond the Dash.

Elijah Cummings served in the United States House of Representatives for Maryland's 7th congressional district from 1996 until his death in 2019. He was known as a skilled orator, a staunch champion of civil rights, and perhaps the most powerful Baltimorean to grace the United States Congress. 

His October 17 death came as a sudden shock to his family, colleagues and constituents. Though the chairman had been dealing with ongoing health issues, he was overseeing the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, as well as three children. 

2. David Koch

Read David Koch's full obituary story on Beyond the Dash.

David Koch was an American billionaire, philanthropist and conservative activist. He was a divisive figure, who identified as a social liberal and supported individual liberties and opposed all forms of society safety nets, including paying taxes. Though he was against social efforts like welfare, minimum wage laws and corporate taxation, he was pro-choice on the issue of abortion, supported gay rights, and did not support the war on drugs. 

In 2012, Koch was the fourth-wealthiest person in the United States. After surviving a runway plane crash in 1991, Koch began to donate more emphatically to causes in which he believed:

"Koch told [Barbara] Walters the crash prompted him to become a philanthropist. He was a major donor to a variety of causes in New York, particularly the arts. But along with his brother Charles, he also funded conservative causes that transformed American politics in ways that made the Kochs pariahs in some circles."

— Shelby Grad, Los Angeles Times

His extensive and generous donations to the GOP, medical research and libertarian causes made David Koch a formidable political figure, despite not being a career politician himself. 

He battled prostate cancer for over 20 years, finally succumbing on August 23, 2019, at the age of 79. 

3. Rep Walter Jones Jr.

Read Walter Jones Jr's full obituary story on Beyond the Dash.

Walter Jones Jr. was an American politician who served in the United States House of Representatives as a member of the Republican Party from 1995 until his death in 2019. He was a member of the Democratic Party before changing parties and being elected to Congress. 

He followed in his father's political footsteps:

"Either Jones or his father, Walter Jones Sr., represented eastern North Carolina in Congress for five decades. The elder Jones, a Democrat, represented the region from 1966 until his death in 1992. Walter Jones Jr., then also a Democrat, lost the party primary to succeed him. He became a Republican and was sent to Washington two years later."

The Associated Press

Jones was known for straddling the political line. He often voted on issues based on his own convictions and the needs of his voters, rather than with his party. 

On February 10, 2019, Walter Jones Jr. died on his 76th birthday, following a battle with ALS. He was survived by his wife, Joe Anne, and daughter Ashley. 

4. John Conyers

Read John Conyer's full obituary story on Beyond the Dash.

Representing Michigan in Congress for over 50 years, John Conyers Jr. was the sixth-longest serving and the longest-serving African-American member to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Conyers was a beloved Democrat, "regularly [winning] elections with more than 80% of the vote, even after his wife went to prison for taking a bribe."

He was known as a fierce civil rights advocate, founding the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and successfully establishing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday. Conyers also served on the House Oversight Committee and the House Committee on the Judiciary. 

His wife's bribe wasn't the only scandal for the Congressman. In 2017, John Conyers was forced to resign from his position in disgrace, following "allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by multiple women" though he vehemently denied any misconduct. His death came on October 27, 2019, at the age of 90. He was survived by his wife and two children. 

5. Jeffrey Epstein

Read Jeffrey Epstein's full obituary story on Beyond the Dash.

American financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges on Saturday, August 10, 2019. He died as he lived: escaping justice for his many crimes. His death prompted several conspiracy theories, including the meme conspiracy "Epstein didn't kill himself." 

His death sent shockwaves through political and Hollywood elites, many of whom are alleged to have been blackmailed by Epstein. Even if this was fake news, there's no doubting the political influence Epstein held over powerful figures in the United States and abroad during his troubled life. From Prince Andrew, to the Clintons, to the current President of the United States, Epstein had ties to elites, money, and a network of helpers who helped him evade justice for far too long. He donated over $139,000 to Democratis federal candidates and $18,000 to Republican candidates between 1989 and 2003.

"Jeffrey Epstein was never married, and had no children. He was predeceased by his parents, Pauline and Seymour. He is survived by his brother Mark Epstein, an unknown number of high-profile associates, and the dozens of women and girls he victimized over the course of his life."

Beyond the Dash

A year in review

Each year, Beyond the Dash pauses to reflect on the year's losses, and pay tribute to the notable people who inspired us. These political figures are remembered for the changes they effected for their causes, constituents and country. 

These deaths represent only a small fraction of the incredible people who passed away in 2019. Who else should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!

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