RICHMOND, Va. — Leaders across the country are mourning the loss of Virginia Congressman Donald McEachin, who died Monday from the secondary effects of colorectal cancer.
“I was just in shock, and I still haven't really processed that it's real," explained Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat who represents Virginia's 9th Senate District. “A lot of us believed he had beaten it, but I think in the end, he was just tired, more tired than we knew. I like to think that God needed another social justice warrior."
McClellan filled McEachin’s seat after he was elected to Congress in 2016.
"He would say that of all the people who had represented the ninth that I was the smartest, and I would say that I had really big shoes to fill," said a smiling McClellan. "And he always got a kick out of that.”
Throughout his more than 20 years in public office, McEachin was outspoken for equality, curbing gun violence and environmental protection.
"The last conversation we had was about reproductive rights," she noted. "He was a leader on environmental justice. We worked together on so many bills from, you know, LGBTQ rights to fighting predatory mortgage lenders."
McEachin was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, but even with all of these roles, he still made time for those he loved.
"The last time I saw him was at my wedding," said Delegate Lamont Bagby, who serves Virginia's 74th District. "And he made sure he sat on the front row. He made sure he texted me, not only after the wedding, but then, about a week ago, a community center in my neighborhood was named after me, and he emailed me and told me how proud he was of me. And I just owe him a lot."
Bagby got emotional recalling some of his favorite memories with the congressman who was like a brother to him.
"There's a number of things I'll remember about him, how much bacon he ate when we had breakfast, how he never let up on me in the space game," said Bagby. "His big brother spirit is something that will live on in our hearts."
While McEachin may no longer serve the people of Virginia’s fourth district, his constituents, colleagues and friends won’t forget his work and legacy he leaves behind.
“I know that God said, well done my good and faithful servant when he showed up at the pearly gate," explained McClellan.
McEachin is survived by his wife, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin, and their three, adult children.
His office said funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews