Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin dies at 61 after battling colorectal cancer


RICHMOND — Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) died Monday, just weeks after winning re-election to Congress, his office announced. He is 61 years old.

Since 2017, McEachin has represented Virginia’s 4th District, which stretches from Richmond to North Carolina. Before that, he served nine years as a state senator and eight years as a representative.

“We are all saddened by the passing of our boss and friend, Congressman Donald McEachin,” McEachin’s chief of staff, Tara Rountree, said in a statement Monday night. Absolutely.” “For years, starting in 2013, we watched bravely as he battled the side effects of colorectal cancer. Tonight, he lost that battle, and the people of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District lost a man forever. , heroes who always fight for them put them first.”

A minister and attorney, McEchin was nominated by Democrats as state attorney general in 2001, losing to Republican Jerry Kilgore. State Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) recalled “watching him make history as the first African-American to be nominated for the office”. He is only the third African-American to represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although McEchin’s health problems have been known for years, his death still came as a surprise to many.

“I was devastated to hear of his passing tonight,” Lucas said. tweets.

McEachin has publicly discussed his battle with cancer and did so as recently as two weeks ago. As WTVR reported at the event, at a packed movie theater hosting a “Black Panther: Forever Wakanda” viewing party, McEchin stressed to the crowd “the importance of early detection,” urging regular checks. “Stop the bullshit. Don’t go on my journey,” McEachin said. “Go to the doctor.”

In 2018, McEachin attributed the dramatic weight loss to complications from his cancer treatment and the miles of weekly walks around the Capitol. The following year he underwent two operations after developing a fistula, which his doctors described as an “abnormal connection between the bladder and colon”. He was also hospitalized that year with a blood clot.

But in 2020, McEachin told Times-Dispatch that he was shaking off health issues that at one point caused him to lose 60 pounds from his 6-foot-5 stature.

“God makes you do things, and then He puts you through,” he told the newspaper at the time.

A 2016 profile in The Washington Post described the newly elected congressman as a “Star Trek fanatic” who was “dumb and sane.” McEachin was a German-born Army kid who studied political science at American University before earning a law degree from the University of Virginia. His wife, Colette McEachin, is a U.S. attorney in Richmond. They are parents to three grown children.

McEachin will face Republican Leon Benjamin, also a minister, this year and in 2020. Democrats won with nearly 65% ​​of the vote this year.

Mori. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) joined McEachin three weeks ago to celebrate the congressman’s victory.

“He was a gentle giant, a compassionate fighter for the underdog, a climate fighter, a Christian role model, an empathetic father, a proud husband, and a devoted brother,” Kane said in his office. said in an emailed statement.

In Congress, McEachin has been known as an impassioned champion of environmental justice and climate change mitigation policies, with a keen focus on their disproportionate impact on disadvantaged or minority communities.

In alignment with these priorities, McEachin co-founded the United Nations Task Force on Climate and Environmental Justice, and also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. He also fought to preserve historic lands and natural beauty, such as the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement mourning McEchin’s death that he was “a tireless champion for Virginia families and a force for economic opportunity and environmental justice.

“As a respected voice on the Energy, Commerce and Natural Resources Committee, he advocated for lower costs, expanded broadband access and protecting families from gun violence,” Pelosi said. “His many contributions to our Select Committee on the Climate Crisis have provided an important foundation for our climate action over the past two years, not least the important progress towards environmental justice.”

Rountree said congressional offices will remain open and will continue to serve McEachin’s constituents until a new representative is elected. A special election for his successor will be held on a date chosen by the Governor. Glenn Youngkin (R).

“It is heartbreaking to learn of the passing of Don McEachin,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), representing part of Northern Virginia, tweets“A noble friend, husband and father. Environmentalist, civil rights advocate, loyal public servant and figure of importance. There was no better ally. I will miss him greatly.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who worked with McEachin in the state Senate, called McEachin a dear friend and mentor and “a legislator and leader as hell” whose ” Trusted advisor and ever calm presence helped me understand public service in Richmond.” She said if it wasn’t for him, she wouldn’t be in Congress today.

“As I considered my decision to run back and visit him on Capitol Hill in 2017, he left me a parting note that read Thomas Paine,” Wexton wrote in a statement. ) if: ‘These are times that test the soul. Summer warriors and sunshine patriots will stand back from serving their country in this crisis; but those who support it now, deserve the love and gratitude of men and women. Donald insisted that he and I were not “sunshine patriots.” I am forever grateful for the fact that he inspired me and believed in my word. I will greatly miss my friend’s wisdom and encouragement. “

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus issued a statement calling McEchin’s death “a great loss for our Commonwealth.”

“Congressman McEchin is a brilliant and compassionate individual,” it said. “His love of humanity was always at the forefront of his work, whether it was in civil rights, the environment, energy or the right to vote. His voice and his presence will certainly be missed.”

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