*Rep. Donald Payne, the first African American elected to represent New Jersey in Congress, died today after a battle with colon cancer, The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports. He was 77.
The 12-term member of the House had announced in February that he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer and would continue to represent his district. Payne’s brother, William, said he died at St. Barnabas Hospital.
He had held his congressional seat since 1988 and was elected to a 12th term in 2010. He represented the 10th District, which includes the city of Newark and parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties.
Payne was a member of House committees on education and foreign affairs. He also had served as chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, and had traveled many times to the continent on foreign affairs matters.
Payne had been chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a congressional delegate to the United Nations. He also was a member of the Newark City Council from 1982 until 1988 and was a teacher in Newark for 15 years. He also served as president of the national YMCA. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University in 1957.
Payne was a widower with three children and four grandchildren. His son, Donald Payne Jr., is a Newark city councilman.
President Obama sent his condolences to Payne’s family at the end of his press conference held this afternoon. The White House has released the following official statement:
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. By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life. After serving as the first African American President of the National Council of YMCAs, and then several years in local government, Don went on to become the first African American Congressman to represent the state of New Jersey. In Washington, he 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. He was a leader in US-Africa policy, making enormous contributions towards helping restore democracy and human rights across the continent. Don will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.