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Honoring The Life Of Congressman Donald Payne

Rep. Laura Richardson

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Madam Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to remember the life and mourn the loss of our beloved colleague, the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey, Congressman Donald M. Payne.

For twelve terms, Congressman was an effective advocate for the interests of constituents, a trusted expert on international affairs and Africa policy to his colleagues, and a tireless champion for poor, vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized people everywhere on earth. But above all, Donald Payne was a good and kind man, who with unfailing good cheer enriched the lives of all he met and served.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on July 16, 1934, to William Evander Payne and the former Norma Garrett, this son of a chauffeur and a dockworker went on to graduate from Seton Hall University, teach English and social studies and coach high school football, and serve as the first black president of the National Council of YMCAs before his election to Congress in 1988 to succeed Peter W. Rodino, another legendary figure in New Jersey politics and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. Donald Payne holds the distinction of being the first and only African American elected to represent New Jersey in the Congress of the United States.

Throughout his congressional career, Donald Payne championed educational and economic opportunity and human and civil rights, both here and abroad. From his work in furtherance of the Northern Ireland peace process, to his efforts to bring attention and an end to the genocide in Darfur, as well as his indispensable work to secure full funding for PEPFAR to combat the HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa, Donald Payne made a difference and his impact has been felt around the world.

As a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Donald Payne mentored and provided wise counsel to many of his colleagues, including me. I valued his counsel and his friendship and I will miss him very much and I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.