Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as New Jersey's first African-American representative, died Tuesday of colon cancer.
Payne, 77, who represented the 10th Congressional District that includes Newark, died in a hospital in Livingston, N.J. The district had been represented previously by Peter W. Rodino, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 when it brought impeachment charges against President Richard M. Nixon.
Payne twice challenged Rodino unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary.
Of New Jersey's 8.8million residents, 13.7 percent are African-American, the Census Bureau found in 2010. The only other minority representative from the state is Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-born Democrat, who represents the 13th district.
A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Payne, first elected in 1988, had planned to run again this year despite facing a primary challenger in June. A possible successor could be his son, William Payne, President of the Newark City Council as well as a freeholder of Essex County.
Another potential successor could be Newark Mayor Corey Booker, who had previously been mentioned as a Democratic challenger in 2013 to Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
A colleague, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J), hailed Payne as one of the greatest advocates for families of the Garden State, NJ.com reported.
Payne served as Black Caucus chairman from 1995 to 1997. Educated as a teacher at Seton Hall University, Payne held positions at Prudential Insurance and Urban Data Systems, both major Newark institutions, before his first election as an Essex County freeholder in 1972. A decade later, he was elected to the Newark City Council where he served until going to Washington.
A widower, Payne is survived by two other children and four grandchildren.