With great sorrow and profound respect, I add my voice to the many others mourning the passing of a dedicated statesman – and friend – Congressman Donald Payne. Congressman Payne dedicated much of his life to public service, his community, our nation and the global struggle for human rights and dignity.
From an early career in business and education, to becoming the first black president of the National Council of YMCA, and eventually serving as New Jersey’s first African-American member of Congress, Representative Payne was a pioneer.
In Congress, Representative Payne distinguished himself as an advocate for human rights, for increased educational grants and lower interest on student loans, and for greater Federal assistance to urban communities across the United States. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a former Chairman of its Africa and Global Health subcommittee, Congressman Payne increased America’s understanding of Africa, strengthened U.S. relations with the continent and promoted legislation designed to help Africa deal with its economic, social, and political challenges. In the Foreign Affairs Committee, he also raised his voice against violence in Rwanda, the eastern Congo, and Sudan, and he risked his life to travel to Somalia to raise international awareness about the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa.
For his lifetime of service, Congressman Payne received numerous honors, including the prestigious Visionaries Award given by the Africa Society and the Democracy Service Medal. His legacy will live on in the words he spoke, the legislation he passed, the lives he touched here and abroad, and the dreams he inspired among many young Americans. For all who care or are involved with human rights, in the U.S. and elsewhere, our ranks have suffered a great loss with the passing of Congressman Donald M. Payne.