US Representative Donald Payne Dead at 77

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 5:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The eastern U.S. state of New Jersey's first black congressman, Representative Donald Payne, has died after a battle with colon cancer.

Sources close to the 77-year-old Payne say he died Tuesday at a New Jersey hospital.

U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday expressed his condolences to Payne's family at the end of a news briefing. He called Payne “a wonderful man” and a friend who “did great work, both domestically and internationally.”

Payne announced last month that he was undergoing cancer treatment, but said he would continue to represent his district. The lawmaker had held his congressional seat since 1988 and was elected to a 12th term in 2010.

Payne drew international attention in April 2009, when during a visit to Somalia, insurgents fired mortar shells toward the Mogadishu airport as he was departing the capital city by plane. Payne left the airport safely, but there were civilian injuries from the mortar fire.

Payne had been in Somalia to meet with the president and prime minister about piracy, security and cooperation.