By Shane Goldmacher
Rep. Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat first elected to Congress in 1988, has died after a battle with colon cancer. He was 77.
Payne just went public with his illness last month. At the time, he vowed to fight the disease, saying his doctors “expect my full recovery, as do I.” But as his condition deteriorated, he was flown from Washington to New Jersey in early March on a medical transport.
He passed away on Tuesday, according to news reports confirmed by a congressional aide.
Payne has represented northeastern New Jersey with few significant challengers for more than two decades. In his last race, he won 85 percent of the vote in the general election after going unopposed in the primary – and that was his closest contest since 2002.
He was a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. More recently, he led the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the group’s philanthropic wing.
Payne was long active in foreign affairs and was the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. In 2003, President George W. Bush named Payne one of two congressional delegates to the United Nations. And in 2009, he gained notoriety after an airplane he was on came under fire while leaving Somalia en route to Kenya. Payne later said he was unaware of the attack until they landed.
According to the biography on his Web site, Payne is survived by one great grandchild, four grandchildren and three children. Among them is his son, Donald Payne Jr., currently the president of the Newark Municipal Council.
Statement by the President on the Passing of Congressman Donald Payne
Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and former Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life. After serving as the first African American President of the National Council of YMCAs, and then several years in local government, Don went on to become the first African American Congressman to represent the state of New Jersey.
In Washington, he made it his mission to fight for working families, increase the minimum wage, ensure worker safety, guarantee affordable health care and improve the educational system. He was a leader in US-Africa policy, making enormous contributions towards helping restore democracy and human rights across the continent. Don will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.
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