Virginia lawmakers remember Rep. Donald McEachin’s impact on the nation as funeral services are held

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:54 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Lawmakers gathered in Richmond to honor the life of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.). McEachin died November 28th, just days after he was elected to his fourth term in Congress.

McEachin’s staff wrote in a statement that, “valiantly, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013.” They add, “Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District lost a hero who always, always fought for them and put them first.”

McEachin was first elected to represent the 4th Congressional District of Virginia on November 8, 2016. He was committed to environmental issues, equality, gun reform, and access to affordable healthcare. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who was friends with McEachin, remembers him as a mentor. She said he helped her ‘learn the ropes’ in Congress when she decided to run for election just two years later.

She said one of her favorite memories with McEachin was “...election night 2018, when it was clear that I had won but the pundits on television hadn’t yet given me the blue checkmark. And so, Donald was with me and my family and my campaign team, and he said, ‘you’ve won, you’ve won, you’ve won.’ And, I said, ‘but I don’t have the blue checkmark. I don’t have the blue checkmark.’ He said, ‘oh, Abigail, come on, you’ve won.’ And a couple of moments later, we got the blue checkmark on whatever channel was reporting. And, I said, ‘oh, my gosh, Donald, I won. And he looked at me. He said, I’ve been telling you that for 20 minutes.”

Before being elected to Capitol Hill, McEachin served as a legislator in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) served with McEachin both in the statehouse and on Capitol Hill. He remembers McEachin had the ability to “disagree without being disagreeable.” He added, “we had that ability to connect and talk about our issues even if we didn’t agree at the end of the day.”

Cline remembers one specific day that McEachin was speaking at the statehouse in Virginia.

“I remember, you know, we were in the House together for a session before he went over to the Senate. And at that time, back around 2004, 2006, he really was an imposing figure in Richmond on his side of the aisle. He’s a lot taller than I am, a lot bigger. And he really, when he rose to speak, could really command a lot of attention. So there were times during that one session when he put a lot of my side on our heels because of that ability to really command the room,” said Cline.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) also served in the statehouse with McEachin. He remembers him as a ‘great guy’ and as a ‘friend.’ He said weeks before McEachin’s death, McEachin asked him to help bring both parties together on one specific issue.

“An article came out about Bon Secours and the Richmond Community Hospital and that’s what Don always talked about. He said, ‘Morgan, no matter who’s in control’ - this was just before the election- ‘we need to look into this situation and make sure everything’s being done right, not just here in Richmond, but nationally.’ And I told him that if we were in control, I would make sure it got looked into on our side of the aisle. If the Democrats were in control, I would work with him to make sure that we got the information that was necessary, because there’s a lot going on with the hospitals. And, he was very concerned for one of the hospitals in his district,” said Griffith.

Watch lawmakers share more personal stories about Rep. McEachin:

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) spoke about McEachin on the Senate floor as well as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Both senators have expressed their sadness over McEachin’s death.

“Up until the very end, Don 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,” said Warner, adding “...Virginia has lost a great leader and I have lost a great friend.”

Kaine said he knew McEachin since he was in his 20′s. Kaine said of McEachin’s battle with cancer, “I never once heard Donald complain or be without a smile on his face, even as he was visibly weakening because of cancer. So I hope folks will remember him as a gentle giant, as a climate champion, as a champion for the underdogs, and a wonderful husband, father and devoted friend.”

McEachin served as co-chair of the House Democratic Environmental Message Team, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Transportation, Infrastructure, Environment and Energy Policy Council, and vice-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC). He also co-founded and led the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force.

McEachin sat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House Committee on Natural Resources, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. He also sat on subcommittees for Energy and Mineral Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Communications and Technology, and Energy.

McEachin also previously practiced with several law firms in Richmond after attending both American University for political science and the University of Virginia School of Law. He received his Master of Divinity from The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.

He is survived by his wife, Colette, and his three children.