‘Fighter until the end’: McEachin remembered by Congressional Black Caucus

Congressional Black Caucus members have been mourning the death of fellow member Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) — who they called an “extraordinary statesman” and “tireless advocate” — after he died from cancer Monday night. 

“It is with profound sadness that we join the people of Virginia and the McEachin family in mourning the loss of our dear friend and colleague, the honorable Congressman Donald McEachin,” the Caucus tweeted Monday. 

“Congressman McEachin was a tireless advocate for the people of Virginia and our nation. He dedicated his life to advancing America’s working families, creating economic opportunities, and promoting environmental justice for all. He leaves an unparalleled legacy of excellence and integrity, and we will honor that legacy with our continued dedication to the issues which he championed.”

McEachin’s death was announced Monday by his chief of staff, Tara Rountree, who said the congressman had been experiencing “secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013.” 

McEachin was 61. His death has prompted an outpouring of support from individual members of the caucus as well.

“As a fellow member of @TheBlackCaucus, I was proud to work with Don on issues ranging from Black Maternal Health and HBCUs to the preservation of African American Burial Grounds,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) tweeted. 

“Don was an extraordinary statesman, and always kind,” she added in another tweet. “My prayers are with Don’s wife Colette, their children, their family and friends, and all of Congressman McEachin’s staff who supported him in service of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.”

Adams said McEachin was a fighter for the state of Virginia, and he shared his personal fight with cancer to “inspire others to get screened and see their doctor.”

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said McEachin was a friend and called him “a dedicated public servant and a fighter until the end.” He added that McEachin’s voice and passion will be missed. 

Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida) said in a statement she was “deeply saddened” by McEachin’s passing. 

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., stands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as she announces her impeachment managers during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“We came to Congress together, where he was a leader and a friend,” Demings said. “He was a man of faith and conviction who truly understood what it meant to stand up for the ‘least of these.’ Despite his personal health challenges, he was devoted to his constituents, and he showed up to do the work. He was a tireless fighter for health care, gun safety, civil rights, and environmental justice. His commitment and that legacy will live on, but I will miss him.”

Fellow Virginia representative Bobby Scott (D) paid tribute to McEachin in a statement that called him 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,” Scott said. 

“Donald was resolute in pushing Virginia to lead the way in climate policy. He was also one of Congress’s strongest champions for environmental justice, fighting to ensure that our most vulnerable communities have access to clean air and water. The Commonwealth and our nation have lost one of its most dedicated public servants and fiercest advocates for justice and equality.”

McEachin came to Congress in 2016 after serving in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly. 

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, on Oct. 10, 1961, McEachin was the son of an Army veteran and a public school teacher.

He graduated from American University with a degree in political science and from the University of Virginia School of Law. In 2008, he received his Master of Divinity from The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.

He was a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the NAACP. 

“Donald wholeheartedly represented his home state of Virginia and was unyielding in his fight for environmental justice in Congress,” NAACP CEO and president Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We will miss him and his determination to improve our environment for the next generation.”

At the time of his death, McEachin sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Natural Resources Committee and Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

On Tuesday, flags were at half-staff at the White House and the Capitol in honor of McEachin.