The first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress, Rep. Donald Payne, died this week from colon cancer.
The New Jersey Democrat, first elected to Congress in 1988, was 77. His top priorities were closing the achievement gap, providing equitable funding for public schools and making college and health care more affordable. Payne served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. As the former leader of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, Payne was known for his tireless advocacy and humanitarian relief efforts in Africa.
“It’s a sad day for New Jersey, the nation and the world,” said IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr. “Rep. Payne was one of the greatest working family and human rights advocates of our time. He was never afraid to speak for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. He will truly be missed.”
Payne, a widower, is survived by three children and four grandchildren.