Payne was a pioneer in the field of black journalism and established three newspapers -- the West Virginia Enterprise, The Pioneer, and the Mountain Eagle. As southern West Virginia's black population grew in the late 1800s, African Americans carried more weight in state politics. In 1896, Payne was elected to the West Virginia Legislature as a Republican delegate from Fayette County. He represented the state's Third Congressional District at the National Republican Convention on three occasions. Payne was rewarded for his service to the party with appointments to various positions within the U.S. Bureau of Internal Revenue. He studied law and was admitted to the bar while working at the bureau.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt named Payne as Consul General to the Danish West Indies (present-day Virgin Islands). After the United States acquired the islands in 1917, he served as prosecuting attorney and police judge in St. Thomas, the islands' capital. He died in St. Thomas on December 5, 1925.
Biographies of Prominent African Americans in West Virginia
West Virginia History Center