Donald Payne Has Died

Rep. Donald Payne, who represented New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District in Washington for 23 years, succumbed to colon cancer today, according to news reports. In Essex County, he represented Orange, East Orange, Irvington and parts of Maplewood, Montclair, Newark, South Orange and West Orange.

A graduate of Barringer High School in Newark and Seton Hall, Payne was the first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress. Payne had been getting treatment at Georgetown Hospital, but was flown back to New Jersey on Friday. He was 77.

Payne cheated death in 2009, when insurgents opened fire on the airport in Mogadishu just as he was leaving. He’d flown there to discuss the problems with Somali pirates.

The last press release on his Congressional webpage expressed concern about the NYPD’s investigation of Muslims in New Jersey.

“While I understand that we must work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our country, we must fervently respect the rule of law and protect the constitutional rights of all Americans,” he said. “Yes, we face threats from radical Islamic terrorist, but the millions of patriotic, peace-loving Muslims living and working in America are our best defense against threats to our national security. In the quest to prevent terrorist attacks, I hope our security and intelligence forces refrain from infringing upon the civil liberties of the very innocent men, women and children we are seeking to protect.”

“New Jersey has lost one of its greatest leaders in the fight for equality and fairness for all Americans, and one of the greatest advocates for families of the Garden State,” Rep. Bill Pascrell said in a press release today. “Donald Payne was a true trailblazer – a champion for education and civil rights who sought to combat injustice all over the world. I will greatly miss my friend and brother. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May Donald Payne rest in peace.”

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  1. New Jersey has lost one of it’s favorite sons, one of the “best” of whom we can all be proud to have had as our Congressman. Donald Payne was one of the (relatively few!) hardworking “good guys” in Congress. The Congressman’s voting record was considered to be the most consistently progressive of all New Jersey Congressmen, and he was solidly pro-choice and an unwavering opponent of the death penalty.

    New Jersey and America have lost a tireless worker on behalf of society’s most vulnerable citizens, and Don Payne continues to be an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing him.

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