STATE – U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, the first African-American from New Jersey to serve in Congress, died today after a battle with colon cancer, according to published reports. He was 77.
“Congressman Donald Payne was my good friend and a trailblazer in our state who opened the door for African Americans in New Jersey to excel in public service,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). “His passing is a loss for Newark and the people he represented and fought for in New Jersey, across the country and around the world. Donald Payne will be missed, but his work will not be forgotten and his legacy will live forever.”
“As a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Payne was a fierce advocate for workforce protections for America’s working families, and as a leading advocate of quality education, he was an active supporter of funding for Head Start, Pell Grants and affordable student loans,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “So many of us also knew him as a powerful voice for peace in the Darfur conflict, and as a former Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, he dedicated himself to the critical mission of addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa.”
“I have known Donald Payne for most of my life,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex). “He has always been a role model to me, and I will never forget his historic victory that made him New Jersey’s first African-American elected to Congress…. He was a tireless advocate for public education and affordable college. He was a champion for working families. He was a defender of freedom and human rights. His work on global affairs was an example of his compassion. He was everything one would want from a Congressman, and then some.”
“Congressman Payne was a diplomat with an unwavering courage who always stood for what was right,” said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex). “He represented this state in a manner incomparable to anyone. His accomplishments go beyond what he did in Congress for the 10th congressional District, but also what we did for people across the globe. He was a friend of the working class. He was a champion of those whose voices are seldom heard.”
“Congressman Payne was a groundbreaking role model and a tremendous individual who served as a mentor to me and many, many others when it came to dedicating oneself to public service. His service to Union County and New Jersey will never be forgotten,” said Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union). “Congressman Payne was a man in whom the poor had a voice. He was someone who knew presidents and kings, but was more comfortable with the man in the street. That’s just who he was, and it’s what made him a great leader.”
“His passing is a true loss but we are better as a state for his service. Every public servant would stand to benefit from following his lessons of civility and dignity,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden).
“I extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Congressman Donald Payne upon his passing,” said U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7). “It has been my honor to serve in Congress with Donald Payne and to serve in the New Jersey Legislature with his brother, William Payne. My wife, Heidi, and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire Payne family.”
“The Rahway Republican Committee extends it’s condolences to the Payne family on the passing of the Congressman who represented Rahway in the 10th Congressional District,” said Patrick J. Cassio, chairman of the Rahway Republican party.
A Democrat, Payne represented New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District for 23 years. His son, Donald Payne Jr., is the president of Newark’s City Council and an Essex County freeholder.
Payne was up for re-election this year and faced a primary challenge in June from Newark West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice.
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