Virginia Congressman Donald McEachin dies at 61
“We are all devastated by the passing of our boss and friend, Congressman Donald McEachin,” McEachin’s chief of employees, Tara Rountree, stated in an announcement late Monday night. “Bravely, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer since 2013. Tonight, he lost that battle and the people of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District lost a hero who always, always fought for them and put them first.”
A minister and legal professional, McEachin was the Democratic nominee for state legal professional normal in 2001, shedding to Republican Jerry Kilgore. State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) recalled “watching him make history as the first African-American candidate” for that place. He was solely the third African-American to characterize Virginia within the US House.
Although McEachin’s well being issues had been identified for years, his demise nonetheless caught many unexpectedly.
“Hearing the news of his death gave me a shock of pain tonight,” Lucas posted on Twitter.
McEachin has publicly mentioned his battle with most cancers, and did so two weeks in the past. In a packed movie show celebrating “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” McEachin harassed to the group “the importance of early detection,” urging common exams, as WTVR reported at the occasion. “Don’t be fooled. Don’t skip my ride,” McEachin said. “Go to the physician.”
In 2018, McEachin attributed a dramatic weight loss to complications from his cancer treatment and walking miles around the Capitol each week. The next year, he underwent two surgeries after developing a fistula, which his doctor described to the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “an irregular connection between the bladder and the colon.” He was also hospitalized that year for a blood clot.
But in 2020, McEachin told the Times-Dispatch that he was overcoming health issues that at one point caused him to shed 60 pounds from his 6-foot frame.
“God pushes you to do issues, after which he takes you thru issues,” he told the newspaper afterward.
In 2016, a Washington Post profile described the congressman-elect as a “Star Trek fanatic” who is “each goofy and cerebral.” An army son born in Germany, McEachin studied political science at American University before earning his law degree at the University of Virginia. His wife, Colette McEachin, is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Richmond. They are the parents of three grown children.
McEachin faced Republican Leon Benjamin, also a minister, this year and in 2020. The Democrat won this year with nearly 65 percent of the vote.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) joined McEachin three weeks ago to celebrate the congressman’s victory.
“He was a mild big, a compassionate champion of the underdog, a local weather warrior, a Christian instance, an understanding father, a proud husband, a loyal brother,” Kaine said in an emailed statement from his office. his.
In Congress, McEachin was known as a passionate champion of environmental justice and policies to mitigate climate change, with close attention to its disproportionate impact on disadvantaged or minority communities.
In line with these priorities, McEachin co-founded the Joint Task Force on Climate and Environmental Justice, while also serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. He also fought for the preservation of historic land and natural beauty, such as the Great Blight Swamp in southeastern Virginia.
Rountree said the congressman’s office will remain open and continue to serve McEachin constituents until a new representative is elected. A special election to replace him will be called on a date chosen by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R).
“Heartbroken to study of Don McEachin’s demise,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who represents a part of Northern Virginia, posted on Twitter. “A noble pal, husband and father. An environmentalist, civil rights advocate, loyal public servant, and a person of consequence. There was no higher ally to have. I’ll miss him terribly.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who served with McEach within the state Senate, known as McEach a pricey pal and mentor and “a hell of a legislator and leader” whose “trusted advice and ever-calming presence helped me to learn the ropes of public service in Richmond She said she wouldn’t be in Congress today if it weren’t for him.
“As I considered making the decision to run again in 2017 and visited him on Capitol Hill,” Wexton wrote in a statement, “he left me a parting note with the words of Thomas Paine written on it.: ‘These are the times that try the souls of men. The soldier of the summer and the patriot of the sun, in this crisis, will depart from the service of their country; but he who stands now deserves the love and thanks of husband and wife.’ Donald insisted that he and I were not ‘sunshine patriots’. For his words of inspiration and belief in me, I am forever grateful. I will greatly miss my friend’s wisdom and encouragement.”
The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus launched an announcement calling McEachin’s demise “an amazing loss for our commonwealth.”
“Congressman McEachin was a superb and compassionate human being,” he said. “His love for humanity was always dominant in his work, whether it was on civil rights, the environment, energy or voting rights. He is a voice that will surely be missed, as will his presence.”