Weeks after winning a fourth Congressional term, Rep. Donald McEachin, a veteran of Virginia’s political scene, has died at the age of 61.
In a statement released 10:20 p.m. on Monday night, McEachin’s Chief of Staff, Tara Rountree said:
“We are all devastated at the passing of our boss and friend, Congressman Donald McEachin. Valiantly, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 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.
Until a new representative is elected, our office will remain open and continue to serve our constituents.
The family asks for privacy at this time. Arrangements will be announced over the next few days.”
McEachin’s death means that a special election will have to be held to determine who the new Congressional representative will be for the Fourth District, which represents the entire city of Richmond, as well as parts of Chesterfield and Henrico Counties.
McEachin had been a part of Virginia’s political landscape since 1996, when he was first elected to serve in Virginia’s House of Delegates, serving three terms. In 2002, he became the first Black nominee for Virginia’s Attorney General. He later ran for the Virginia State Senate in 2007, holding office from 2008-2017. It was during his time as a State Senator that he made the decision to run for Congress. He won his Congressional election in 2016, becoming the third Black man to represent Virginia in Congress when his term started in 2017.
The news of McEachin’s death came as a shock, even though he had previously battled colorectal cancer in 2013, and announced in 2018 that a fistula had developed as the result of his cancer-related surgery. He was a determined man, who worked through the hard times to serve his constituents, no matter what. The obstacles he faced were only temporary to him.
During his time in Congress, the Black community in Richmond looked up to him, not just as a political leader, but as a mentor as well, as noted in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
He also wanted to help out his community the best he could using his time in Congress, where some of his priorities included combating climate change, protecting women’s reproductive rights and the Affordable Care Act, as well as preserving Black cemeteries. Earlier this year, he introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation: The African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act.
“The preservation of African American burial grounds is of the utmost importance and imperative if we’re going to have a more comprehensive understanding of our nation’s history,” he said during the announcement. “This year’s legislation…takes more immediate steps by establishing great opportunities and providing technical assistance from the National Park Service to protect these sites.”
In the wake of his death, tributes have poured in from all over, highlighting just how impactful McEachin was not just as a political leader, but as an everyday citizen.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin took to Twitter late Monday night, where he noted that McEachin was a “valiant fighter until the end.”
Senator Tim Kaine first met McEachin in 1985, where they became “fast friends.”
In a statement, he also made note that McEachin “was a gentle giant” and “a compassionate champion for underdogs.”
I met Donald McEachin in 1985–we became fast friends. A gentle giant, a compassionate champion for underdogs, a climate warrior, a Christian example, an understanding dad, a proud husband, a loyal brother. “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.” Psalm 90:12.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) November 29, 2022
Senator Mark Warner also spoke about how McEachin was a “great leader” who “never lost his focus on social and environmental justice.”
Up until the very end, Don McEachin was a fighter. Even though he battled cancer and faced other trials in recent years, he never lost his focus on social and environmental justice.
Tonight, Virginia has lost a great leader and I have lost a great friend.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) November 29, 2022
The Democratic Party of Virginia also released a statement on Twitter, noting how much of an impact he had on Virginia.
“A person of faith, Donald embodied the definition of service. He had a kind and generous heart; and for so many people, he was a voice of reason, and a man who listened to you, always showing compassion and care. He was wealthy in the only way that truly matters, with an abundance of friends and allies who loved and respected him. We could always count on him to give sound advice and guidance. His voice will be deeply missed.”
The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus noted that McEachin’s “love for humanity was always uppermost in his work, whether on civil rights, the environment, energy, or voting rights.”
McEachin’s impact was also seen in national politics. Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Raul Grijalva, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, also released statements to their friend who faithfully served alongside them.
I’m heartbroken to hear this devastating news about my friend @RepMcEachin from Virginia.
He was a foot soldier for truth & justice.
He fought so valiantly against cancer and will be forever missed! #RestInPeaceMyFriend
— Jaime Harrison, DNC Chair (@harrisonjaime) November 29, 2022
It is with great sadness that I join Virginians in mourning the loss of Congressman Donald McEachin: a tireless champion for Virginia families and a force for economic opportunity and environmental justice.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 29, 2022
.@RepMcEachin was a man of great faith who set the standard for kindness and compassion.
He leaves behind an immense legacy with his work fighting for environmental justice.
We send our deepest sympathies to his wife Colette, his children & grandchild, loved ones, and staff. pic.twitter.com/9abu6O2zfx
— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) November 29, 2022
Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03) wrote that his colleague “was a thoughtful and principled legislator and respected by people on both sides of the aisle. He was also a trail blazing figure in Virginia politics – being the first African-American nominee of a major party for Virginia Attorney General and only the third African-American elected to Congress from Virginia.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) wrote a heartfelt tribute to her colleague, noting “Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t be in Congress today.”
As I considered running for Congress in 2017 and visited Donald on Capitol Hill, he left me with a parting note on which were written the words below from Thomas Paine.
For his inspiration and belief in me, I am forever grateful. pic.twitter.com/wUtVtHuxUZ
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) November 29, 2022
McEachin’s Congressional colleagues across Virginia also wrote tributes in honor of Rep. McEachin, including all four of Virginia’s Republicans: Reps. Ben Cline (VA-06), Bob Good (VA-05), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), and Rob Wittman (VA-01).
This is a huge loss for his family and friends, his constituents and staff, for Virginia, for the House, for the country, for all of us who knew him. A very, very sad day.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) November 29, 2022
He will be greatly missed.
Adam and I are keeping his wife Colette, his daughters, and his beloved grandson in our prayers — and we are thinking of his family during this difficult time as we remember his legacy.
Godspeed my friend, my brother, and my neighbor.
— Rep. Abigail Spanberger (@RepSpanberger) November 29, 2022
A dear friend and trusted colleague, Don dedicated his life to public service and made a difference for the people of Virginia in Congress and in the General Assembly. He fought every day for his constituents and the Commonwealth and gave a voice to our most vulnerable citizens. https://t.co/glWMsdUDsB
— Rep. Elaine Luria (@RepElaineLuria) November 29, 2022
Heartbroken to learn of Don McEachin’s passing. A noble friend, husband, and father. An environmentalist, civil rights advocate, faithful public servant, and a man of consequence. There was no better ally to have. I will miss him terribly.
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) November 29, 2022
I am saddened to hear about the passing of my colleague, @RepMcEachin. Elizabeth and I are praying for his family, loved ones, staff, and constituents during this difficult time. https://t.co/7n7nuz2jY9
— Congressman Ben Cline (@RepBenCline) November 29, 2022
It is with sadness that I would like to express my condolences to the McEachin family at the passing of my colleague, Rep. Donald McEachin. I am grateful for the kindness he showed me during the two years we served together. My prayers are with his family.
— Congressman Bob Good (@RepBobGood) November 29, 2022
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, Congressman Don McEachin. I had the pleasure of serving with Don in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the United States Congress, where we worked together on the Energy and Commerce Committee. https://t.co/ekGQrCFBBM
— Morgan Griffith (@RepMGriffith) November 29, 2022
Congressman Donald McEachin was an incredible leader, colleague and friend. I was fortunate to work with him for many years and to witness his integrity, leadership and public service.
Kathryn and I are praying for his family and loved ones as they mourn this incredible loss.
— Rep. Rob Wittman (@RobWittman) November 29, 2022
Other political leaders across Virginia also commented:
I am so terribly sad to hear the news of the passing of my good friend Congressman Donald McEachin. Always a compassionate, honorable man who put others first. Rest well my friend.
— Mamie Locke (@SenatorLocke) November 29, 2022
I last saw Rep. McEachin when @VP convened us in Richmond after the Dobbs decision. He was the only man to speak — a straight-shooting fighter for us all. Virginia and the nation have lost a true servant. pic.twitter.com/2WnGl5ivlR
— Sally Hudson (@SallyLHudson) November 29, 2022
His leadership in the Congress was felt throughout the Trump Presidency as he held him accountable and then helped Joe Biden pass his agenda through the past two years. We will miss him terribly.
— L. Louise Lucas (@SenLouiseLucas) November 29, 2022
Youngkin, who as governor is charged with setting the dates for special elections, has not yet announced when the election to replace McEachin will be held.
This content was originally published here.