NNPA NEWSWIRE — Friends and family spoke touchingly about the Honorable A. Donald McEachin’s life and legacy today. We will not forget.
By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
HENRICO, VIRGINIA — McEachin: A Virginian from the Old School. A large number of federal and state leaders from past and present administrations, as well as community activists, constituents, and countless present and former staff employed in federal and local government connected to Virginia, attended the funeral of the Honorable A. Donald McEachin today in Henrico, Va., at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, led by Rev. Dr. Lance Watson.
Though he had been dealing with health issues related to colorectal cancer in recent years, his death on Nov. 28 at the age of 61 was met with shock and sadness throughout Richmond and Virginia’s political districts, as well as north to Capitol Hill in Washington.
A large crowd of McEachin’s friends, staff, and admirers took part in a tribute to McEachin’s life of public service, with 46 members of Congress sitting at stage right, a row behind Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay Coles James, and Attorney General Jason Miyares. McEachin is only the third African American elected to Congress in Virginia history, following attorney and abolitionist John Mercer Langston and Congressman Bobby Scott.
Many of those who spoke today emphasized McEachin’s legacy’s historical and social connections. Their personal stories about McEachin provided a road map for how one person can directly and indirectly affect so many lives through public service.
Rev. Tyrone Nelson, McEachin’s former law partner Donald Gee, Rev. Stephen Tillett, Del. Lamont Bagby, former Congressman Cedric Richmond, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, and Rev. Dr. John Kinney all spoke from the stage today in a rousing tribute to McEachin. Senator Tim Kaine and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn also spoke.
McEachin Constituent Services Director Rev. Sylvia Copeland spoke on behalf of Team McEachin about all the special details that made working with the Congressman unique and memorable — from his love of popcorn, Subway’s steak and cheese, and Mountain Dew to his dedication to community and family — in one of the afternoon’s most memorable moments. “We will never forget how ADM consistently challenged the team to connect, build, and maintain relationships with key community leaders in order to ensure our district’s performance aligned with his overall goals,” Copeland said.
McEachin’s office was well-known for providing excellent constituent service.
“It’s just a blessing to praise the Lord, hallelujah I’m free,” Sen. Tim Kaine concluded his remarks. McEachin and Kaine’s relationship dates back to their twenties as lawyers. “When I call Donald my good friend, it’s not like we do on the floor of the House sometimes when you really don’t mean it,” U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said. “When I say Donald McEachin is my good friend, I truly mean it,” Clyburn added before recounting several personal moments he shared with McEachin.
Del. Bagby, a McEachin protege and Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, told the audience that many of the judges and lawyers in the room were most likely there “because of Donald McEachin.” Bagby also stated that the passage of a predatory lending bill he sponsored in the General Assembly was a source of particular pride for him because McEachin’s law firm assisted many clients with the issue.
“These are personal stories for me. Donald made it personal for each of you present. I’m sure he did something to encourage and assist you. To give you an advantage. “He was a good man, a good Delegate… but he was most connected to his family,” Bagby said.
Among the many members of Congress and others in the endless rows of pews at St. Paul’s today were many notable attendees. Here are a few examples: House Minority Leader Don Scott, State Senator L. Louise Lucas, fmr. Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, State Senator Jennifer McClellan, State Senator Creigh Deeds, State Senator Lionell Spruill, fmr. Del. Jay Jones and his father fmr. Del. Jerrauld Jones, January 6th Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, soon-to-be U.S. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, incoming Congressional Black.
Republican Missouri Congressman Billy Long, State Senator Dick Saslaw, Clerk of the Senate Susan Clarke Schaar, and Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford.
Before she spoke, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received a standing ovation from the audience after Pastor Watson praised her leadership. The Virginia Union University Choir performed several memorable songs.
McEachin is survived by his wife, Colette McEachin, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond, and their three children, Joseph “Mac” McEachin, Elizabeth McEachin, and Alexandra McEachin. Friends and family spoke movingly about A. Donald McEachin’s life and legacy today. We will not forget.
Lauren Victoria Burke is a freelance journalist who hosts the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who frequently appears on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She can be reached at LBurke007@gmail.com or @LVBurke on Twitter.