Donald Payne
Donald M Payne Official.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 10th district
In office
January 3, 1989 – March 6, 2012
Preceded byPeter Rodino
Succeeded byDonald Payne Jr.
Personal details
Donald Milford Payne

(1934-07-16)July 16, 1934
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedMarch 6, 2012(2012-03-06) (aged 77)
Livingston, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Hazel Johnson
m. 1958; her death 1963)
EducationSeton Hall University (BA)
Springfield College, Massachusetts

Donald Milford Payne (July 16, 1934 – March 6, 2012) was an American politician who was the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 10th congressional district from 1989 to 2012. He was a member of the Democratic Party. The district encompasses most of the city of Newark, parts of Jersey City and Elizabeth, and some suburban communities in Essex and Union counties. He was the first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress.[1]

Early life, education, and early political career

Payne was born in Newark and was a 1952 graduate of 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.[2] In 1970, Payne became the first black president of the National Council of YMCAs.[3] From 1973 to 1981 he was Chairman of the World Y.M.C.A. Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee.[4]

Payne's political career began in 1972, when he was elected to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, serving three terms.

In 1978, Payne ran against, and came in third to, Peter Shapiro in the June primary selecting the Democratic candidate for the first Essex County Executive, with Sheriff John F. Cryan coming in second.[5]

In 1982, he was elected to the Newark Municipal Council and served three terms, resigning in 1988 shortly after his election to Congress.

U.S. House of Representatives


Payne ran against U.S. Congressman Peter Rodino in the 1980 and 1986 Democratic primaries but lost both times. Rodino retired in 1988 after 40 years in Congress. Payne defeated fellow Municipal Councilman Ralph T. Grant Jr. in the Democratic primary, the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. He was re-elected eleven times with no substantive opposition, never dropping below 75% of the vote.[6][7][8]

1996 Results

  • Don Payne (D) 84.16%
  • Vanessa Williams (R) 14.62%
  • Harley Tyler (NL) 0.79%
  • Toni Jackson (SWP) 0.43%

1998 Results

  • Don Payne (D) 84%
  • William Wnuck (R) 11%

2000 Results

  • Donald M. Payne (D) 87.5%
  • Dirk B. Weber (R) 12.1%
  • Maurice Williams (I) 0.4%

In the 2002 general election, Payne was reelected with 84.5% of the vote, receiving a higher margin of the vote than in any other New Jersey Congressional race run that year. In 2004, the Republicans didn't even put up a candidate, and Payne was reelected with 97% of the vote, against Green Party candidate Toy-Ling Washington[9] and Socialist Workers Party candidate Sara J. Lobman. In 2006, Payne was unopposed in the primary and general elections. In 2008, he won 99% of the vote against Green candidate Michael Taber. In 2010, Payne defeated little-known candidate Micheal Alonso.

U.S. House of Representatives

General elections

Year Democrat Votes Republican Votes
1988 Donald M. Payne 84,681 Michael Webb 13,848

Primary elections

Year Democrat Votes
1980 Peter W. Rodino 26,943
1980 Donald M. Payne 9,825
1980 Golden E. Johnson 5,316
1980 Russell E. Fox 1,251
1986 Peter W. Rodino 25,136
1986 Donald M. Payne 15,216
1986 Pearl Hart 967
1986 Arthur S. Jones 931
1988 Donald M. Payne 40,608
1988 Ralph T. Grant Jr. 14,908


Payne's voting record was considered to have been the most consistently progressive of all New Jersey Congressmen at the time of his death. He was pro-choice and against the death penalty. He was a member, and former chair, of the Congressional Black Caucus[10] 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 Clinton on their historic six-nation tour of Africa. He also headed a Presidential mission to war-torn Rwanda [11] 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, D.C..[12] 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.

He was one of the 31 who voted in the House to not count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.[13]

Payne received an "A" on the liberal Drum Major Institute's 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle-class issues.[14]

Payne 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.

Payne supported Senator Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination after originally supporting Hillary Clinton.[citation needed]

Attack in Somalia