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Payne, Donald M.

Donald M. Payne

1934–

Politician

In November of 1988 Donald M. Payne made history when he became the first black from New Jersey elected to the U.S. Congress. A former city councilman and Democratic leader from Newark, Payne won a nearly 80,000-vote victory over his Republican challenger in New Jersey's 10th Congressional District, which encompasses Newark and several surrounding cities in Essex and Union County. Payne's victory, virtually assured when he was a winner in the earlier Democratic primary, marked his third try at becoming a congressional representative. On two previous attempts, he was defeated by longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Rodino, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of Congress's leading advocates of civil rights legislation. Rodino's 1989 retirement cleared the way for Payne's election, and as in previous campaigns, Payne emphasized the importance of black representation for the predominantly black district. "When Congress was established, it was designed to have all segments of the population represented," Payne commented to Joseph F. Sullivan in the New York Times. The election of his state's first black congressman, he predicted, would "make the country stronger and make New Jersey stronger." Payne's prediction certainly started his own strong career. By 2004 he had won nine consecutive terms in office by wide margins, and had risen to wield great influence in Congress.

Formed Early Interest in Politics

Payne was born in 1934 in an Italian-American section of Newark known as Doodletown. The son of a dock worker and one-time chauffeur, Payne grew up in a working-class area where, as he told Sullivan, "everyone, whites and blacks, worked for low wages, although we didn't think of it as living in poverty, and there was a real sense of neighborhood, of depending on one another." Eventually, however, Payne became aware of the limited economic opportunities available to minorities; "I didn't have a black teacher all through elementary and high school until my senior year," he recalled to Sullivan.

His early experiences fueled Payne's interest in politics. His first political experience came in 1954, when he ran his brother William's successful campaign to be elected Newark's first black district leader. William Payne, who first became involved in politics as an organizer for a Rodino reelection campaign in the 1950s, went on to manage his brother Donald's successful 1988 congressional campaign. Payne's own political career evolved from his work as a schoolteacher and subsequent service with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). After receiving his undergraduate degree from Seton Hall University in 1957, Payne taught English and social studies for seven years in the Newark public school system. In the early 1960s he began doing community work with the YMCA, organizing self-help projects that brought together local street gang members and adult volunteers. Also during this time, the death of his wife from cancer left him solely in charge of his two preschool-age children, Donald, Jr., and Wanda. Payne eventually left teaching and joined the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark as a manager, keeping a full schedule that mixed family, career, and volunteer work with the YMCA. Payne rose high enough within the YMCA ranks to be named its national president in 1970—the first black ever to hold the position. Three years later he was elected chairman of the YMCA's World Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee, a position which took him to more than eighty countries.

By the end of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, Payne also made his mark as a prominent member of the local Newark political scene. In the late 1960s he moved to Newark's South Ward and helped to revamp—along with future New Jersey State minority assembly leader Willie Brown—the district's Democratic Party organization. Led by Payne, who served as its president for eighteen years, the organization went on to produce a number of prominent Newark politicians, including Mayor Sharpe James, State Senator Wynona Lipman, and councilmen Donald Tucker and Ralph T. Grant. Payne made further political moves in the early 1970s with his election to the Essex County Board of Freeholders, a county-level body of legislators. Payne served as the board's director from 1978 until 1982, during which time he made his first unsuccessful bid at a seat in the U.S. Congress.

In 1982, Payne was elected to the Newark City Council, a position from which he would launch his successful 1988 congressional campaign. Rebounding from a second primary defeat to Rodino in 1986, Payne persevered to make himself the leading candidate to fill Rodino's 10th Congressional District seat when the representative announced his 1989 retirement after forty years of service. Payne ran his successful campaign on a message that the district, which had become predominantly black during the 1970s, should have a black congressman as its representative. Combined with his pledge to be a positive role model and active worker on behalf of young people, Payne won the June 1988 Democratic nomination over fellow black politician Ralph T. Grant, a prelude to his landslide victory five months later over Republican challenger Michael Webb. Upon winning the election, Payne commented to Sullivan on his persistence in capturing the congressional seat he had long aspired to. "Nothing is as powerful as a dream whose time has come," Payne stated. "Sometimes a political leader is marching a little in front or a little behind the people, but once in a while the marcher and the drumbeat are in exactly the same cadence, and then, finally, good things happen."

Payne also had words of praise for Rodino, the Italian-American congressman who ably served as the district's representative for more than forty years. "When Congressman Rodino defeated incumbent Republican Fred Hartley in 1948, Italian-Americans were being discriminated against in employment and housing, and his election made them very proud…. He was loved and revered." Aspiring to be a similar type of representative, Payne described a major objective as being the assessment of the needs of his constituents with regard to the omnibus drug bill and legislation surrounding catastrophic health insurance. He summed up in Ebony his feelings on being the first black congressman from his home state: "It means a dream fulfilled. It means you've got to be qualified. It means pride. It means thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers…. It means New Jersey has taken its rightful place with other areas of this country that have finally put a member of its own race in Congress."

At a Glance …

Born Donald Milford Payne, July 16, 1934, in Newark, NJ; son of William Evander (a dock worker) and Norma (Garrett) Payne; married Hazel Johnson, June 18, 1958 (died, 1963); children: three. Education: Seton Hall University, BA, 1957; Springfield College, MA, 1963.

Career: South Side High School, Newark, NJ, teacher, 1957; Robert Treat Junior High School, Newark, teacher, 1957–59; Pulaski Elementary School, Passaic, NJ, teacher, 1959–64; Prudential Insurance Company, Newark, manager, 1964–75, National Council of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA), national president, 1970–?, chairman of Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee, 1973–81; South Ward Democratic organization, Newark, chairman, 1970–88; Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, member, 1972–78; Urban Data Systems, Newark, vice-president, 1976–?; Newark Municipal City Council, member, 1982–1988; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congressman from New Jersey, 1988–.

Awards: Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, 2004; honorary doctorates, Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College and William Paterson University.

Addresses: Office—2209 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515-3010; Web—www.house.gov/payne/links/index.html.

Formed Solid Political Reputation

Payne established himself as a career politician, working to support his constituents by securing seniority in Congress. Throughout each of the nine terms he has served in office, Payne gained access to some of the most powerful committees. Among his many appointments, he held the position of chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Payne was also one of five congressional representatives selected by President Clinton to represent the country on a six-nation African tour in 1998. In 2003 President Bush appointed Payne to serve as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations. In 2006 Payne served on the Democratic Steering Committee, a group that assigns Democrats to congressional committees and is influential in shaping the legislative agenda. In addition, he served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the International Relations Committee, in which he held a ranking member position in the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations.

Payne's efforts were recognized in the bills he helped pass, including the school improvement initiative Goals 2000; the School-to-Work Opportunities Act; the National Service Act and the Student Loan Bill, the millions of dollars in economic support he has secured for his constituent counties, and the international efforts he spearheaded to send aid to Sudan, Rwanda, Liberia, and other war-torn or impoverished countries. Colin Powell praised Payne in 2004 at the Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner, saying according to Political Transcript Wire, that Payne brings to his job "a passion that we need to get our bureaucracy to work, to make sure the government does what it should be doing." Into his ninth term in office, Payne seemed to have only just begun his work, and continued to cast his net wide in order to use his senior influence in Congress to good ends.

Sources

Periodicals

Africa Analysis, December 14, 2001.

CQ Weekly, October 27, 2001.

Ebony, May 1989.

Newsweek, June 9, 1986.

New York Beacon, July 1-7, 2004.

New York Times, June 8, 1988; June 9, 1988; November 5, 1988; November 9, 1988; November 10, 1988, January 5, 2005.

Political Transcript Wire, November 5, 2004.

On-line

"Ambassador Andrew Young Lecture Series on Africa, Remarks by Congressman Donald M. Payne," The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, www.africasummit.org/news/payneremarks.html (July 12, 2006).

Congressman Donald M. Payne, 10th District New Jersey,www.house.gov/payne/links/index.html (July 12, 2006).

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"Payne, Donald M.." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Payne, Donald M. 1934–

Donald M. Payne 1934

Politician

At a Glance

Sources

In November of 1988 Donald M. Payne made history when he became the first black from New Jersey elected to the U.S. Congress. A former city councilman and Democratic leader from Newark, Payne won a nearly 80,000-vote victory over his Republican challenger in New Jerseys 10th Congressional District, which encompasses Newark and several surrounding cities in Essex and Union County. Paynes victory, virtually assured when he was a winner in the earlier Democratic primary, marked his third try at becoming a congressional representative. On two previous attempts, he was defeated by longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Rodino, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of Congresss leading advocates of civil rights legislation. Rodinos 1989 retirement cleared the way for Paynes election, and as in previous campaigns, Payne emphasized the importance of black representation for the predominantly black district. When Congress was established, it was designed to have all segments of the population represented, Payne commented to Joseph F. Sullivan in the New York Times. The election of his states first black congressman, he predicted, would make the country stronger and make New Jersey stronger.

Payne was born in 1934 in an Italian-American section of Newark known as Doodletown. The son of a dock worker and onetime chauffeur, Payne grew up in a working-class area where, as he told Sullivan, everyone, whites and blacks, worked for low wages, although we didnt think of it as living in poverty, and there was a real sense of neighborhood, of depending on one another. Eventually, however, Payne became aware of the limited economic opportunities available to minorities; I didnt have a black teacher all through elementary and high school until my senior year, he recalled to Sullivan. His first political experience came in 1954, when he ran his brother Williams successful campaign to be elected Newarks first black district leader. William Payne, who first became involved in politics as an organizer for a Rodino reelection campaign in the 1950s, went on to manage his brother Donalds successful 1988 congressional campaign.

Paynes political career evolved from his work as a schoolteacher and subsequent service with the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA). After receiving his undergraduate degree from Seton Hall University in 1957, Payne taught English and social studies for seven

At a Glance

Born Donald Milford Payne, July 16, 1934, in Newark, NJ; son of William Evander (a dock worker) and Norma (Garrett) Payne; married Hazel Johnson, June 18, 1958 (died, 1963); children: Donald Milford, Jr., Wanda. Education : Seton Hall University, B.A., 1957; graduate studies, 1957-63.

South Side High School, Newark, NJ, teacher, 1957; Robert Treat Junior High School, Newark, teacher, 1957-59; Pulaski Elementary School, Passaic, NJ, teacher, 1959-64; affiliated with Prudential Insurance Company, Newark, beginning in 1964, became manager; National Council of Young Mens Christian Associations (YMCA), national president, beginning in 1970, chairman of Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee, 1973-81; South Ward Democratic organization, Newark, chairman, 1970-88; Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, member, 1972-78; Urban Data Systems, Newark, vice-president; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congressman from New Jersey, 1988.

Addresses: Office 417 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515-3010.

years in the Newark public school system. In the early 1960s he began doing community work with the YMCA, organizing self-help projects that brought together local street gang members and adult volunteers. Also during this time, the death of his wife from cancer left him solely in charge of his two preschool-age children, Donald, Jr., and Wanda. Payne eventually left teaching and joined the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark as a manager, keeping a full schedule that mixed family, career, and volunteer work with the YMCA. Payne rose high enough within the YMCA ranks to be named its national president in 1970the first black ever to hold the position. Three years later he was elected chairman of the YMCAs World Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee, a position which took him to more then eighty countries.

By the end of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, Payne also made his mark as a prominent member of the local Newark political scene. In the late 1960s he moved to Newarks South Ward and helped to revampalong with future New Jersey State minority assembly leader Willie Brownthe districts Democratic Party organization. Led by Payne, who served as its president for eighteen years, the organization went on to produce a number of prominent Newark politicians, including Mayor Sharpe James, State Senator Wynona Lipman, and councilmen Donald Tucker and Ralph T. Grant. Payne made further political moves in the early 1970s with his election to the Essex County Board of Freeholders, a county-level body of legislators. Payne served as the boards director from 1978 until 1982, during which time he made his first unsuccessful bid at a seat in the U.S. Congress.

In 1982, Payne was elected to the Newark City Council, a position from which he would launch his successful 1988 congressional campaign. Rebounding from a second primary defeat to Rodino in 1986, Payne persevered to make himself the leading candidate to fill Rodinos 10th Congressional District seat when the representative announced his 1989 retirement after forty years of service. Payne ran his successful campaign on a message that the district, which had become predominantly black during the 1970s, should have a black congressman as its representative. Combined with his pledge to be a positive role model and active worker on behalf of young people, Payne won the June 1988 Democratic nomination over fellow black politician Ralph T. Grant, a prelude to his landslide victory five months later over Republican challenger Michael Webb. Upon winning the election, Payne commented to Sullivan on his persistence in capturing the congressional seat he had long aspired to. Nothing is as powerful as a dream whose time has come, Payne stated. Sometimes a political leader is marching a little in front or a little behind the people, but once in a while the marcher and the drumbeat are in exactly the same cadence, and then, finally, good things happen.

Payne also had words of praise for Rodino, the Italian-American congressman who ably served as the districts representative for more than forty years. When Congressman Rodino defeated incumbent Republican Fred Hartley in 1948, Italian-Americans were being discriminated against in employment and housing, and his election made them very proud. He was loved and revered. Aspiring to be a similar type of representative, Payne described a major objective as being the assessment of the needs of his constituents with regards to the omnibus drug bill and legislation surrounding catastrophic health insurance. He summed up in Ebony his feelings on being the first black congressman from his home state: It means a dream fulfilled. It means youve got to be qualified. It means pride. It means thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers. It means New Jersey has taken its rightful place with other areas of this country that have finally put a member of its own race in Congress.

Sources

Ebony, May 1989.

Newsweek, June 9, 1986.

New York Times, June 8, 1988; June 9, 1988; November 5, 1988; November 9, 1988; November 10, 1988.

Michael E. Mueller

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Payne, Donald M. 1934–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Payne, Donald M. 1934–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/payne-donald-m-1934

"Payne, Donald M. 1934–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/payne-donald-m-1934