Congressman Payne has Died

Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. of Newark has died.

Elected to the seat formerly held by his father in 2012, Mr. Payne was known for his commitment to public service, his gravitas, his love of Newark, and his ready smile.  A former Newark City councilman and former Essex County Commissioner, Mr. Payne affectionately went by the nickname “Choppy.”

On April 9th, his office issued the following statement:

“Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. suffered a cardiac episode based on complications from his diabetes during the weekend. He was admitted to a local hospital for treatment. Currently, he is recovering in the hospital as doctors conduct routine exams to monitor and observe his improvement.  The Congressman’s prognosis is good and he is expected to make a full recovery.”

He did not.

Having suffered a heart attack on April 6th, Mr. Payne lapsed into a coma, from which he would not emerge.

He was 65.

Never the most vociferous, demagogic or attention-seeking congressperson, the pro-labor Mr. Payne played a critical role as an infrastructure and transportation policy expert. The son of New Jersey’s first African-American congressman, his family, personal and political history vitally tell a critical part of the history of the City of Newark.

Notably, Congressman Payne, Jr. helped pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, which became law on Nov. 15, 2021. “The new, $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is going to create opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses nationwide,” said Payne, Jr., who earlier that same year assumed the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “We must not let discrimination in federal contracting deny them their right to participate in these infrastructure projects.  As Chairman of the Rail Subcommittee, I will continue to work to make the process of how we award federal passenger rail projects more equitable and transparent for all American businesses.”

The bill also makes critical investments in rail projects, among them the long-delayed access corridor to the region’s core, or the Gateway Tunnel, in a district where only two towns – Irvington and Hillside lack train stations.

From the White House:

“U.S. passenger rail lags behind the rest of the world in reliability, speed, and coverage. China already has 22,000 miles of high-speed rail, and is planning to double that by 2035. The legislation positions rail to play a central role in our transportation and economic future, investing $66 billion in additional rail funding to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic. This is the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak’s creation, 50 years ago and will create safe, efficient, and climate-friendly alternatives for moving people and freight.”

The bill, notes Payne, improves the nation’s infrastructure in several ways, such as:

  • $66 billion in guaranteed funding for rail projects.
  • $38 billion in funding that could be used for the Hudson River Tunnel project (above and beyond its estimated $12 billion price tag).
  • $12 billion for rail upgrades, such as high-speed rail projects.
  • $46 billion for flood mitigation, coastal resiliency and other measures to protect infrastructure from extreme weather events.
  • $55 billion for water infrastructure and the removal of lead-contaminated pipes in drinking water systems.

Long delayed amid pushing and shoving from within the Democrats’ own ranks, the deal for Biden’s infrastructure agenda finally came together after the November 2021 general election, and after a much-criticized – but historically significant – U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a 20-year occupation going back to a presidential agenda the late Congressman Payne, Sr. vehemently opposed.

Mr. Payne, Jr. knew the political arc his father lived through and died trying to redirect to critical domestic spending, which is why he took a certain pride in having put himself in a position to be the chairman of the rail subcommittee at the beginning of this year, and why – whenever he saw Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in the lead-up to the infrastructure deal – Buttigieg stopped him before he could say anything and said, “I know, I know, the Gateway Tunnel.”

“I’m in the catbird’s seat,” the congressman told InsiderNJ.

In 2022, Mr. Payne would go on to face stiff opposition from the progressive wing of the party. He ran the campaign of a lifetime, and handily won reelection.




April 24, 2024

Statement from Governor Murphy on the Passing of Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.

“Tammy and I are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of our friend, and a steadfast champion for the people of New Jersey, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.

“With his signature bowtie, big heart, and tenacious spirit, Donald embodied the very best of public service. As a former union worker and toll collector, he deeply understood the struggles our working families face, and he fought valiantly to serve their needs, every single day. That purpose was the light that guided him through his early years as Newark City Council President and during his tenure on the Essex County Board of Commissioners. And it guided him still through his more than a decade of service in Congress.

“It was my great honor to work side-by-side with Donald to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey, and we will hold his memory close to our hearts as we build upon the Payne family’s deep legacy of service in advocating for the communities they served so dearly.

“Donald’s love will live on in the homes of his neighbors in Newark, who now have access to safe drinking water, and in the good-paying jobs he helped create for his brothers and sisters in labor. And it will live on in his wife Beatrice, and their three children, Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne, who were the pride of his life. Our heartfelt prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Pascrell Mourns Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. 

PATERSON, NJ – Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today joined all New Jerseyans mourning the passing of his longtime friend, colleague, and neighbor, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10).

“I am anguished and devastated by the passing of my close friend, Don Payne. This is a terrible loss for his family and all of us who admired him every day,” said Congressman Pascrell. “Like his father, Donald gave his entire life to the people of Newark. I cannot think of any member at any time who embodied the compassion, kindness, honesty, big heart, and humble demeanor central to public service more than Donald. He led the way for rail transportation and men’s health in the Capitol and was a beloved member of our state’s congressional delegation, always thinking about everybody else but himself. Donald will be tremendously missed and he brought peace and comfort to the Congress in everything he did. Sometimes leaders come and go but that is not the case here. We have lost Donald far too soon but the Payne name will live on in Newark and North Jersey forever. May God bless Don Payne and his family.”

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9 responses to “Congressman Payne has Died”

  1. What a loss for us all. Hard worker like his father. One of the Reasons we should vote. Putting strong men in positions to help the people and our communities. ❤️ RIP

  2. Just think how much worse it would have been if he had not been “Vaccinated”…
    May God bless and protect the family

  3. Shameful nasty comment. How low a commenter with a fake name goes is still a shock.
    We will never insult Congressman Payne Jr ‘s memory by name calling. Essex County has a strong compliment of qualified Democratic replacements who will continue to offer quality service to voters.
    Do we all need fake names now, to avoid harassment by writers like Tom here?

  4. Mrs. Jefferson, how do you know that my name, Thomas Jefferson, is not my real name. Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd President of the U.S. Thomas Jefferson is a somewhat common name. Thomas Jefferson is a name given to many blacks. So, by extension, you don’t know if I’m black or not!!!!Therefore, your comment that I am using a fake name shows us that you’re RACIST!!!!!!!!!

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