Rest well, Congressman McEachin
12/1/2022, 6 p.m.
In reading Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott’s description of A. Donald McEachin, as a “gentle giant” I firmly believe that truer words, perhaps, have never been spoken for Rep. McEachin who died on Monday at age 61.
Rarely did one see the tall, bespectacled Virginia congressman showing anger even when upset with journalists or others who’d struck a nerve or two with him.
Shortly after we ran a Free Press article in the Nov. 3-5 edition about Rep. McEachin just before what unknowingly would be his last election, I received an email from him.
I was immediately concerned, especially since I’d not spoken to the congressman since 2016 when I spotted him walking his dog, Cheyenne, in our Henrico County neighborhood.
On the day I saw Rep. McEachin, I recall asking him about Cheyenne’s menacing bark.
“She’s very protective,” he said, smiling and probably wondering “who is this woman talking to me?”
So when Rep. McEachin emailed me exactly one month ago, I knew he would be polite, and even cordial. I also knew that this would be no “Great job on that story/editorial” that ran in the Free Press the day before his call.
The message sent from his iPhone was swift and to the point.
“Would you kindly give me a call?” Donald McEachin.
I immediately responded as instructed and he immediately answered his phone.
It didn’t take long for me to understand why Rep. McEachin has served and been re-elected to his 4th District seat since 2016.
On the phone was a man who was selected by his colleagues to serve as co-chair of the House Democratic Environmental Message Team, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Transportation, Infrastructure, Environment and Energy Policy Council, and vice chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC). During his first term in Congress, Rep. McEachin co-founded the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force and continues to lead the task force as a co-chair.
Rep. McEachin’s other committees included the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C), the House Committee on Natural Resources (Natural Resources), and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
Before Congress, Rep. McEachin served as a legislator in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly. His website biography further reads: “Throughout that time, he fought to protect our most vulnerable citizens — and to defend the rights of all Virginians. Rep. McEachin is a dedicated public servant who leads efforts that will promote equality, curb gun violence, protect our environment, and preserve access to affordable health care.”
When I spoke with Rep. McEachin, rather than chastise me or the Free Press for what he perceived as unfair coverage about what our newspaper referred to as his lack of campaigning for his Nov. 8 re-election, he instead started talking about my alma mater and congratulating me on being named to the university’s journalism Hall of Fame.
And when Rep. McEachin uttered “Aggie Pride” the catchphrase known by any bona fide North Carolina A&T State University graduate, I assured him that he was in good company because even former President Obama embraced the phrase on his visits to the Greensboro, N.C. campus.
Once past conversation ice breakers, Rep. McEachin gently noted the reason for his call. He believed that the Free Press had unfairly characterized his campaign and pointed out that no one from the Free Press interviewed him during the election cycle.
I assured the congressman that no harm was intended and asked how I might make things right.
Even though I could not see him through my iPhone, I sensed that he was smiling when he replied that he would send a letter to the editor (me), let his concerns be known and leave it at that.
I said that would be wonderful, I looked forward to receiving the letter, and thanked him for speaking with me.
I never received Rep. McEachin’s letter.
Rest in peace, Congressman.
Bonnie Newman Davis Richmond Free Press Managing Editor