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"It's a huge loss," remembrances pour in for Congressman Donald McEachin

Don McEachin
Steve Helber
/
AP
FILE - U.S. Rep. Don McEachin D-4th. waves during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. McEachin died Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, after a battle with colorectal cancer, his office said. He was 61.

Friends and colleagues of the late Richmond-area Congressman Donald McEachin are mourning the loss of their friend and reflecting on his legacy.

Aston Donald McEachin served four terms in the House of Delegates, two terms in the state Senate and three terms in Congress. He was just elected to what would’ve been his fourth term in Congress. Now, people across Virginia are remembering a man who was a lawyer, but also had a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University.

Senator Jennifer McClellan says his faith informed his policies.

"He was someone who understood the social justice mission of his faith and put that into action first as a lawyer and then as an elected official on issues from civil rights for everybody to reproductive freedom to fighting predatory lending," McClellan says. "You name the issue, he fought for the marginalized and the oppressed and it's a huge loss."

Delegate Lamont Bagby says McEachin's views continued to evolve after he was elected to Congress in 2016.

"He started to focus a lot on environmental justice, which is unique for a Black legislator in a suburban, urban district," Bagby explains. "But that became his focus, and he guided us into that same space. I would have never carried the clean car legislation if it had not been for what I've learned working alongside him."

Voters will need to choose a replacement for the late congressman in a special election, the date of which has yet to be determined.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.