Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin died from COVID-19 complications Friday night, a statement from his office said. He was 60 years old.
Chafin, a Republican who represented southwest Virginia and was from Russell County, oversaw the state’s 38th District and won reelection in November 2019.
He becomes the first Virginia lawmaker to die of COVID-19. In a statement, the Chafin family thanked the VCU Medical Center in Richmond for its “vigorous care” during his two-week stay battling the coronavirus.
He first served in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013 and was then elected to the state Senate in 2014. He advocated, according to his office’s statement, for jobs in his district, mainly in the coalfields.
Before his career in public office, Chafin was a cattle farmer and a lawyer in Lebanon, Virginia.
Members of both sides of the aisle sent their condolences after Chafin’s death. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus called Chafin, in a statement, a “passionate leader” who represented his district with compassion and “thoughtfulness.”
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Richard L. Anderson said Chafin was broadly respected across the state and made his mark as a “selfless public servant.”
“He will be forever remembered for his conscientious commitment to serving his fellow man, and he will be especially remembered as a man of civility who treated others with simple human kindness and respect,” Anderson said in a statement.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement that Chafin’s death is “sad news to begin a new year with the loss of a kind and gracious man.” He ordered the state flag at the state capitol to be lowered in Chafin’s honor and stay at half-staff until sunset on the day of his interment.
“I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him,” Northam said. “He loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more.”
Southwest Virginia has lost a strong advocate—and we have all lost a good man.
Read my statement on the passing of Senator Ben Chafin: https://t.co/sBwMuj3ADL
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 2, 2021
He is survived by his wife Lora; his mother Mary; his sister Teresa and three children.
At Chafin’s request, the family will not hold a formal burial service. All flower requests and donations should be made as food bank donations in his memory to the Elk Garden School Community Ministry in Rosedale.