New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Jr. Dies at 65, Just 3 Weeks After Heart Attack

Reuters/Paul Morigi
Reuters/Paul Morigi
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Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) died Wednesday, succumbing to complications from a heart attack he suffered earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday. He was 65.

Payne had been unconscious since his heart attack on April 6, which his office said stemmed from diabetes.

He was in the middle of his sixth term in Congress, representing Newark and parts of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties.

Payne came from a prominent political family in Newark, who, combined with his dad’s service before him, represented the city dating back to 1988 when Donald Payne Sr. became the first Black member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation. The elder Payne served until his death in office in 2012.

Payne’s district is one of the most heavily Democratic in the country, and he spent his career in Congress fighting to expand access to health care.

In 2021, he sponsored legislation to promote screening for colorectal cancer—the disease that killed his father. Last year, he introduced the Amputation Reduction and Compassion Act—legislation that’d promote screenings for peripheral arterial disease with the aim of reducing amputations brought on by the disease.

He was also known for helping to secure $900 million in a federal allocation for the Gateway tunnel project, which connected New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River. He also led a charge to support lead testing in school water systems to prevent cancer and other ailments, which passed the House and Senate.

Payne is survived by his wife, Beatrice, and the grown triplets they raised together.

“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,” Murphy said in a statement. “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.”

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