Les Payne, Pulitzer-winning Newsday reporter and editor, dead at 76

NEW YORK — Longtime New York journalist Les Payne, whose career took him from the poppy fields of Turkey to the Soweto uprising in South Africa to the streets of American cities, has died. He was 76.

Payne's family confirmed his death to Newsday, where he worked for nearly four decades, rising through the ranks from reporter to associate managing editor. The newspaper reported Tuesday that Payne died unexpectedly Monday night at his home in Harlem.

Payne oversaw foreign and national coverage for Newsday, was an editor of New York Newsday and wrote a column. He retired in 2006.

"Les Payne spent almost four decades at Newsday establishing a standard of journalistic excellence that has been a beacon for all who have come after him," Newsday Editor Deborah Henley said. "His skill, his passion and his integrity were all elements in a distinguished career that, in his own words, led to 'journalism that brought attention to problems, and sometimes helped solve those problems.'"

"He appreciated the people who appreciated him: the readers," his wife, Violet, said.

Payne was part of a Newsday reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for a 33-part series titled "The Heroin Trail."

Payne, who was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and educated at the University of Connecticut, also was a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a Vietnam War veteran.