Local Officials Remember Congressman Donald Payne

The congressman died this morning at the age of 77.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

Mary Pat and I offer our condolences to the Payne family on the loss of Congressman Payne. He was a leader with great compassion for every person he had the honor of representing. He was a great role model for every person in New Jersey who aspires to public service. He was a true gentlemen and we considered him a friend.


State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey:

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Congressman Payne and my sincerest sympathies go out to his entire family.

His contributions to others reached every level imaginable.  He was a tried and true son of Essex County, but his public service had a lasting impact on the residents of New Jersey, the citizens of the United States and countless others around the world.

His early career as an educator helped him understand, as he would often say, that education is the key to success.  What I was struck most by was his deep and abiding belief in the power of education to change lives.

Congressman Payne was a transformative figure and he will be sorely missed.


State Senator Richard J. Codey:

Today the world lost a true global citizen, New Jersey lost an honored favorite son, and many of us lost a dear friend.

Donald Payne began his public service in the classrooms of Newark, and even as a leading member of Congress, never forgot where he came from. Improving the lives of Newark’s children, and ensuring that every child in every city is given the schooling and tools they need to succeed, drove his public life.

When war threatened the lives of innocent people in far-flung parts of the globe, Donald was never silent. He was a crusader for human rights, and a believer in the dignity of every person regardless of their station in life. From the halls of Congress to the United Nations, his efforts to promote democracy and human rights were unequalled by many.

He was larger than life, but never acted like it, and wherever there was oppression, he traveled there to help the oppressed. But even when work took him abroad, his heart was always in Essex County.

The Payne family should rightly be proud of Donald’s life and achievements, as we all are. As they grieve his loss, so do all of us who proudly stood alongside him for so many years.


Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr.:

As the first African American elected to represent New Jersey in the United States Congress, Donald Payne was a civil rights pioneer and trailblazer. He dedicated most of his professional life to serving the public, providing strong representation and working hard to improve his constituents’ quality of life. He also was an international figure who campaigned tirelessly for human rights and raised awareness about the human tragedies in Africa. Today is a sad day because we have lost a statesman, we have lost a gentleman and we have lost a friend.


United States Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr.:

New Jersey has lost one of its greatest leaders in the fight for equality and fairness for all Americans, and one of the greatest advocates for families of the Garden State. Congressman Payne and I served the people of Montclair, South Orange and West Orange together, but we were aligned in so many other ways as well. I was proud to serve alongside him in the fight to keep our cities safer, to provide greater opportunities for our young people and to give all Americans access to quality affordable health care. Donald Payne was a true trailblazer – a champion for education and civil rights who sought to combat injustice all over the world. I will greatly miss my friend and brother. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May Donald Payne rest in peace.


United States Senator Frank Lautenberg:

Congressman Donald Payne was my good friend and a trailblazer in our state who opened the door for African Americans in New Jersey to excel in public service. Congressman Payne was so conscientious of people's lives and always focused on those who needed the most help. His passing is a loss for Newark and the people he represented and fought for in New Jersey, across the country and around the world. Donald Payne will be missed, but his work will not be forgotten and his legacy will live forever.

Seton Hall University President A. Gabriel Esteban:

Our Seton Hall community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman Donald Payne. Congressman Payne was a model educator and public servant who fervently believed in the value that good government could provide to the citizens of his beloved 10th District and Americans everywhere.

Congressman Payne remained a greatly involved and dedicated alumnus since graduating Seton Hall in 1957.  He served on numerous boards and committees and was an unwavering, ever-positive presence at so many of our men’s basketball games.  He particularly enjoyed attending home games the past few seasons at the Prudential Center in his beloved Newark. 

We will be forever grateful for all he did to secure significant financial support for our state-of-the-future Science and Technology Center, ensuring that Seton Hall will continue, for generations to come, to educate servant leaders in scientific fields so important to our nation’s prosperity and health.

My family and I, along with the entire Seton Hall community, extend our sincerest condolences to the entire Payne family as we hold Don and his family in our thoughts and prayers.


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