This post has been updated.
Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.), the first African American elected to Congress from the Garden State, has died after a brief battle with colon cancer, according to House Democratic aides.
A statement released by his office Tuesday said “Payne dedicated his life to serving the men, women and children of the 10th Congressional District” and noted that he had previously sreved as a public school teacher in Newark and Passaic, N.J. as well as the first African-American President of the National YMCA.
“New Jersey has lost a noble public servant,” the statement added, “and the world has lost an amazing human being.”
He was hospitalized Friday at Georgetown University hospital and flown later to New Jersey on medical transport, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
Payne, 77, was first elected to Congress in 1988 and represented New Jersey’s 10th District, which encompasses Newark, Jersey City and Elizabeth.
He was a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and served as head of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the group’s educational and outreach arm.
“By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life,” President Obama said in a statement, adding that Payne “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.”
Payne also served as a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee. In a statement, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Payne “a trailblazer” and “a tireless campaigner for justice,” who frequently traveled to Sudan to assess the situation there.
“As his state’s first African American elected to Congress, Donald Payne was a trailblazer who helped pave the way for many to follow throughout the country. Don was a tireless campaigner for justice,” Hoyer said.
“Congressman Payne spoke out on behalf of suffering people in some of the most difficult situations around the world: from Rwanda to Sudan to the peace process in Northern Ireland,”House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “It was a personal privilege to travel with Congressman Payne to Darfur; he was a leader in bringing attention to the genocide there. He was an expert on the political, economic, and security situation throughout the continent of Africa,”
Payne is survived by three children, four grandchildren and a great grandchild, according to his official biography.
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
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