Congressman Donald Payne, 1934-2012
Congressman, New Jersey 10th
Newark, New Jersey
I do believe the young people on this program, the Palestinians and Israelis, will be the solution in the future. The future of the Middle East is in good hands with the young people I’ve met associated with this program and I commend you for the outstanding work you have done.
Biography: As we prepare for the start of our 2012 Program, NSL would like to take a moment to reflect on one key person who will sadly not be with us this year. Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey was one of our most passionate supporters and who contributed so much to NSL in its formative years. As many of you will know, Congressman Payne passed away on March 6th 2012 after suffering from colon cancer. He was 77.
The Congressman offered so much to our program by taking two students each year to work in his office. The knowledge he bestowed on them has greatly enhanced the political minds of those NSL students lucky enough to work with him.
The Congressman was born Donald Milford Payne on the 16th July 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. In 1952 he graduated from Barringer High School. He did his undergraduate studies at Seton Hall University, graduating in 1957. After graduating he pursued post-graduate studies in Springfield College in Massachusetts. Before being elected to Congress in 1988, Payne was an executive at Prudential Financial, Vice President of Urban Data Systems Inc., and a teacher in the Newark Public Schools. In 1970, Payne became the first black president of the National Council of YMCAs. From 1973 to 1981 he was Chairman of the World Y.M.C.A. Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee.
Payne’s political career began in 1972, when he was elected to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, serving three terms. In 1982, he was elected to the Newark Municipal Council and served three terms, resigning in 1988 shortly after his election to Congress.
He was a member, and former chair, of the Congressional Black Caucus and was chosen in 2002 by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the Democratic Steering Committee. The Democratic Steering Committee chooses which House Committees each individual Democratic Congressmen will serve on and also plays a crucial part in shaping the Democratic legislative agenda. In international issues, Payne was active on issues relating to Africa, particularly regarding the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan and the Western Sahara conflict.
As a leading advocate of education, Payne was instrumental in the passage of key legislation, including the Goals 2000 initiative to improve elementary and secondary schools; the School-to-Work Opportunities Act; the National Service Act, establishment of the National Literacy Institute; and funding for Head Start, Pell Grants, Summer Jobs and Student Loans.
Payne was also a member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he served as Chairman of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and as a member of the Subcommittee on the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. Congressman Payne was at the forefront of efforts to restore democracy and human rights in nations throughout the globe. He was one of five members of Congress chosen to accompany President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton on their historic six-nation tour of Africa. He also headed a Presidential mission to war-torn Rwanda to help find solutions to that country’s political and humanitarian crises. In addition, he was recognized as having the most supportive record in Congress on issues involving the Northern Ireland peace process.
On June 22, 2001 Payne was arrested after protesting against the Sudanese government at its Embassy in Washington, DC. He was a supporter of and endorsed the Genocide Intervention Network.
In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Payne as one of two members of Congress to serve as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations and reappointed him in 2005 to an unprecedented second term. In this role, he met with the U.N. Secretary General, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and regularly attended sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and other high level meetings.
Payne also served on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, TransAfrica, Discovery Channel Global Education Fund, the Congressional Award Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, the Newark Day Center, the Fighting Back Initiative and the Newark YMCA. He received numerous awards and honors from national, international and community-based organizations, including the Visionaries Award bestowed by the Africa Society and the prestigious Democracy Service Medal, which was previously awarded to Lech Walesa, the former Polish President and founder of the Solidarity movement, by the National Endowment for Democracy.
He died on March 6, 2012 after suffering from colon cancer. He was 77 years old.