Black lawmakers mourn the death of New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Jr.

Following the news Wednesday of the passing of Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Black lawmakers shared memories and statements of support for the late lawmaker’s family.

In a statement, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) highlighted the work Payne, 65, focused on during his six terms in Congress, including racial justice, reproductive freedom, free college tuition and expanding voting rights.

“Representative Payne will be remembered by all those who knew him for his kindness and generosity,” the CBC said. “He leaves behind a legacy and commitment to service that New Jerseyans and our country will not soon forget.”

Payne had served in Congress since 2012, representing New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District. He succeeded his father, Donald Payne Sr., whose death in 2012 led to a special election.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday has been a “difficult day” as Congress mourns Payne’s death and his “long and valiant career in public service … fighting for those he was privileged to represent.”

“Don led this fight with vigorous passion and personal conviction, his own courageous battle with Type 1 Diabetes informing much of his life’s work to make our communities safer and healthier,” Jeffries said in a statement. “Don leaves behind a legacy of relentless determination in the face of adversity.”

“Our nation is forever indebted to Rep. Payne, Jr. for his service and commitment to his community, to the Congress and to the country,” he continued. “I am grateful to my classmate and friend for the role he played in my own public service journey, through our conversations on train rides to and from Washington and our close partnership as Members from neighboring delegations.”

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) shared that he had worked with both Payne and his father, and he noted the similarities between the two.

“I immediately noticed that both were so committed, so endearing, and so dedicated to empowering communities across New Jersey,” Mfume posted on the social platform X. “Like his father, Donald worked here in the Congress until his final moments. He leaves behind a powerful final goodbye in a life that embodied strength, selflessness, and compassion. My deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and constituents.”

During his time in Congress, Payne served as the ranking member and chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, as well as the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) called Payne “a true public servant,” while Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), whip for the CBC, called the late congressman “a thoughtful leader and beloved member of the CBC family.”

Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) said in a statement that Congress needs more members like Payne, “who understood the meaning of public service.”

Payne’s death followed a “cardiac episode” related to complications from diabetes more than two weeks ago. He had been hospitalized since.

Though his office had issued a statement saying the lawmaker was in “stable condition,” the New Jersey Globe reported last week that Payne had remained unconscious after his cardiac episode.

On Wednesday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he was “deeply saddened” by Payne’s death. He added that the New Jersey Democrat was both a colleague and a friend.

“He was a tireless champion for the people of New Jersey and a counselor to my late wife with whom he shared the debilitating consequences of diabetes,” Clyburn wrote. “His genuine good nature will be sorely missed.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) shared that she and Payne had a special relationship.

“I loved him like a brother, and he would often call me his ‘sister-mother’ when I would give him a hard time about one issue or another,” she said.

“Donald was a dapper dresser (always with the matching glasses), a true gentleman, and a loyal friend to me,” Watson Coleman said, adding that he and his entire family are in her prayers.

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