United States Representative Donald M. Payne (1934-2012)

A I awoke this morning to the sounds of the daily news on the television, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman Donald M. Payne, Representative from  New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District.  A civil rights leader in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he became the first African-American President of the National YMCA.  In 1988, he was elected to Congress, where he succeeded Representative Peter Rodino and thereafter served for 24 years.  I was blessed enough in 2002 to meet the Congressman at a political event in Newark, shortly after he voted against the Iraq War.  He spoke with a reserved command of the podium, of the facts and of his audience.  The word captivating would not do him justice.  The respect he commanded is best exemplified by the fact that, despite his opposition to President George W. Bush’s positions on the Iraq War and foreign policy in general, the President still appointed the Congressman to serve as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations.  Twice.  I will remember the Congressman as a powerful voice for the poor, for the children of our community, and for human rights around the world.  His grace as a leader will be sorely missed and his seat will be hard to fill.

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