TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, the first black elected to represent New Jersey in Congress, died Tuesday. He was 77.
Payne’s brother, William, said he died at St. Barnabas Hospital.
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.
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.
During an April 2009, mortar shells were fired toward Mogadishu airport as a plane carrying Payne took off safely from the Somali capital. Officials at the time said 19 civilians were injured in residential areas. Payne had met with Somalia’s president and prime minister during his one-day visit to Mogadishu to discuss piracy, security and cooperation between Somalia and the United States.
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.