I was shocked and saddened to hear that Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey died today after a several month long battle with colon cancer.
Rep. Payne was the first (and so far only) African-American elected to Congress from New Jersey and represented New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District for 23 years after his initial election in 1988.
In addition to his tireless advocacy for increased United States attention on African continent issues, he was a tireless advocate for his constituents, a champion for education as a former teacher and a civil rights warrior who was returned to Congress 11 times by wide margins.
And yes, I had the pleasure of meeting him along with Vanessa Edwards-Foster during the 1999 GenderPac lobby day. Vanessa and I had gone to Rep JC Watts (R-OK) office earlier that morning and as we were recapping what happened in the elevator it stopped and Rep. Payne got on enroute to his office to open it.
He’d heard part of our conversation and asked what we were there to lobby for. When we told him trans rights issues, we ended up getting to follow him to his office and having 30 minutes with him before he started his day to explain why our coverage in hate crimes and ENDA was needed.
During my subsequent lobby trips to Washington DC I made it a point to stop by his office any time I was on Capitol Hill just to say hello. Unfortunately, the next time I’m on Capitol Hill, I won’t be able to do so
Rest in peace Rep. Payne. I will definitely miss you.along with your constituents in the 10th Congressional District..