NJ Rep. Donald Payne Dies at 77

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey has died at age 77.

Payne's brother, William, says he died Tuesday morning at St. Barnabas Hospital.

"He walked with kings, but never lost the common touch," William Payne said.

President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to the Payne family, calling the 12-term member of the House a “friend” and a “wonderful man” who did great work domestically, as well as internationally.

Gov. Chris Christie ordered flags lowered in Payne's honor. 

"He was a leader with great compassion for every person he had the honor of representing,” the governor said. “He was a great role model for every person in New Jersey who aspires to public service. He was a true gentleman and we considered him a friend."

In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker said the city lost a "home-grown hero." But, Booker added, in this time of grief "we also celebrate our humble hero, who lived an extraordinary life of contribution and distinction."

Payne had announced in February that he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer and would continue to represent his district.

He was New Jersey's first black congressman.

Payne has represented the 10th District, which includes the city of Newark and parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties, since 1988 and was elected to a 12th term in 2010.

He was a member of House committees on education and foreign affairs. He had also served as chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa.

Payne had been chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a congressional delegate to the United Nations. He also was a member of the Newark City Council from 1982 until 1988 and was a teacher in Newark for 15 years. He also served as president of the national YMCA. He earned a bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University in 1957.

Payne was a widower with three children and four grandchildren. His son, Donald Payne Jr., is a Newark city councilman.