Don­ald Payne, N.J. con­gress­man, dies

Hailed for work on ed­u­ca­tion, civil rights and African re­lief

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DANIEL JACK­SON

Rep. Don­ald M. Payne, a New Jer­sey Demo­crat and for­mer leader of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus who cham­pi­oned ed­u­ca­tion, civil rights and the im­prove­ment of con­di­tions on the African con­ti­nent dur­ing his 23 years in Congress, died Tues­day af­ter a months-long bat­tle with colon can­cer, his of­fice re­ported. He was 77.

Mr. Payne was known on Capi­tol Hill for lead­ing the fight to con­demn geno­cide in Su­dan, in­crease the min­i­mum wage and re­duce the cost of gov­ern­ment loans for col­lege stu­dents.

Lead­ers from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Obama, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi and New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, noted his pass­ing.

Mr. Obama closed his news con­fer­ence Tues­day with a com­ment on the con­gress­man’s death.

“I want to pub­licly ex­press con­do­lences to the fam­ily of Don­ald Payne . . . a won­der­ful man. Did great work, both do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. He was a friend of mine. And so my heart goes out to his fam­ily and to his col­leagues.”

House Demo­cratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Mary­land Demo­crat. said Mr. Payne’s “fight for jus­tice at home and hu­man rights around the world will be Don’s last­ing legacy.”

Mr. Payne was a trail­blazer in public and pri­vate life: In the 1960s, he was an ex­ec­u­tive with Pru­den­tial In­sur­ance and the first black pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Coun­cil of YMCAS be­fore be­ing elected in 1988 as the first black con­gress­man from New Jer­sey.

He had in­tended to seek re-elec­tion for a 13th term in the fall.

“Don was not only a col­league, he was a men­tor and friend who I lov­ingly called ‘The Pro­fes­sor,’” said Rep. Gwen Moore, Wis­con­sin Demo­crat.

On Capi­tol Hill, Mr. Payne was known as an ad­vo­cate for Africa. He was in­stru­men­tal in push­ing a 2004 res­o­lu­tion through Congress that la­beled the on­go­ing killing in Su­dan as geno­cide, lead­ing to sanc­tions against the north African na­tion’s gov­ern­ment. He later wrote the Su­dan Peace Act, a plan to bring famine re­lief to the coun­try.

In 2009, while on a fact-find­ing mis­sion to So­ma­lia, in­sur­gents fired mor­tar rounds at his plane.

Mr. Payne helped se­cure mil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. fund­ing for ef­forts to combat malaria, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and HIV/AIDS around the world, with most of the money go­ing to sub-sa­ha­ran Africa.

Born in Ne­wark, N.J., on July 16, 1934, Mr. Payne lost his mother at age 7. Raised by his grand­mother and fa­ther, who worked the docks of Ne­wark, Mr. Payne grad­u­ated from Bar­ringer High School in 1952 and Se­ton Hall Univer­sity and went to work as a teacher in Ne­wark.

In the 1980s, he was elected to the Ne­wark City Coun­cil for two terms.

On Feb. 9, Mr. Payne made his last vote in Congress, ac­cord­ing to the Hill news­pa­per. The fol­low­ing day, he sent a let­ter to the black cau­cus, telling fel­low law­mak­ers he was bat­tling colon can­cer.

He is sur­vived by three chil­dren, four grand­chil­dren and one great-grand­child. His son, Don­ald Payne Jr., is the pres­i­dent of the Ne­wark City Coun­cil.


Rep. Don­ald M. Payne, New Jer­sey Demo­crat, once headed the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus and was a cur­rent mem­ber of the House for­eign af­fairs and ed­u­ca­tion and the work­force com­mit­tees. He died Tues­day from can­cer.

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