U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Human Rights Advocate, Dies Of Colon Cancer
From the report:
The state's first — and before his death its only active — black congressman, Payne headed one of Newark's most powerful political dynasties. His son Donald Payne Jr. is the Newark City Council president, as well as an Essex County Freeholder. His brother and lifelong political partner, William, is a former state assemblyman.
"He's had a tremendous impact on the state, country and the world," William Payne said.
Leaders from throughout the state and the country lined up today to express sorrow over the loss of a local and national hero.
"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." President Obama said in a statement. "By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life."
"Congressman Donald Payne was a leader of conscience and a public servant of diligence," said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "He was admired by his colleagues; he earned respect around the world for his outspoken advocacy on behalf of human rights and the worth and dignity of every person."
The former Newark School District teacher was serving his twelfth term in Congress, and had only just last month said he would run again despite his condition. During his time in the House of Representatives, he was known for his work in education reform and as an ambassador to Africa.
State Sen. Richard Codey called Payne’s legacy a strong one, and one that merits emulation at all levels of government, particularly with regard to oppressed peoples.
“He was bigger than life but never conducted himself that way,” Codey said by phone this morning. “If you were violating somebody’s rights, you better get out of the way.”
"People always associated him with Africa and advocating for Darfur and he did, but color didn’t matter to him, just your civil rights,” Codey said.
Warned off a 2009 fact-finding mission to Somalia by President Obama’s administration, Payne, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee’s sub-panel on Africa, ignored concerns about his safety. He said solving problems in Somalia was key to solving problems throughout the continent.
The militant group al-Shabab fired mortar shells at his plane when it took off from Mogadishu airport, missing the aircraft entirely, but injuring 19 locals.
Both President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have ordered flags to be flown at half-staff today out of respect for Payne's passing.