Special to the Guide
Three weeks after winning his fourth term to the U.S. Congress, Democrat A. Donald McEachin, 61, died November 28, his office announced.
McEachin had represented Virginia’s 4th District, which stretches from Richmond to the North Carolina line, since 2017. Before that, he had served nine years as a state senator and eight as a delegate.
“Donald was a thoughtful and principled legislator and respected by people on both sides of the aisle,” his colleague 3rd District Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) said in a statement shortly after his death was announced. “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 continued, “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’s struggles with health issues related to cancer had been public for several years; however, his death still caught many by surprise.
“Hearing the news of his death sent a shock of pain through me tonight,” State Sen. Louise Lucas tweeted.
He had publicly discussed his battle with cancer and did so as recently as two weeks ago speaking to a packed crowd attending the movie viewing of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”.
There, he stressed to the crowd “the importance of early detection,” urging regular exams, as WTVR reported at the event. “Don’t fool around. Don’t go through my journey,” McEachin said. “Go to the doctor.”
In 2018, McEachin attributed a dramatic weight loss to complications from his cancer treatment and walking miles around the Capitol every week. The next year, he underwent two surgeries after he developed a fistula, which his doctor described to the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “an abnormal connection between the bladder and colon.” He was also
hospitalized that year for a blood clot.
But in 2020, McEachin told the Times-Dispatch that he was moving past the health problems that at one point had caused him to shed 60 pounds from his 6-foot-5 frame.
“God gets you to stuff, and then he gets you through stuff,” he told the paper then.
A minister and lawyer, McEachin was the Democratic nominee for state attorney general in 2001, losing to Republican Jerry Kilgore. Democrat
He was born into a military family stationed in Germany and he studied political science at American University before earning his law degree at the University of Virginia. His widow, Colette McEachin, is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Richmond. They were the parents of three adult children.