Longtime New Jersey Congressman Dies


(Photo credit: CNN)

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By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer

Rep. Donald M. Payne, a Democrat from New Jersey, has died, his Congressional office said in a statement Tuesday. He was 77.

Payne was serving his twelfth term in the U.S. Congress, making him one of the longest-serving members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation. In its statement, Payne’s office said the congressman died of complications from colon cancer. Payne announced to his constituents in February he was battling the disease.

“New Jersey has lost a noble public servant, and the world has lost an amazing human being,” Payne’s office wrote. “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Rep. Payne have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.”

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Payne “lived a full and meaningful life.”

“Don will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time,” Obama’s statement read.

Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1934, according to a biography on his Congressional website. He was the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey, and served as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a non-profit educational group.

In the House, Payne served on the Education and Workforce and Foreign Affairs committees. Among his achievements was founding the Malaria Caucus with former first lady Laura Bush, and helping secure funding to battle other diseases afflicting countries in Africa.

He was also recognized for his support of legislation promoting peace in Northern Ireland, and for passing a resolution declaring genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

He graduated from Seton Hall University, and held honorary degrees from a number of colleges and universities. Payne’s biography notes he is a widower and a father of three.

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