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BROWN WESLEY PAYNE


It is a notable fact that in every nation, as civilization advances the legal profession attracts many of the brightest minds. A colored lawyer, who has won a place for himself at the bar of West Virginia is Brown Wesley Payne, of Beckley. Mr. Payne is a native of Augusta County, Virginia. The date of his birth was January 29, 1879. His father, Rev. Frank Payne, was a Baptist preacher, who died at 76, his mother, before her marriage, was Miss Susan Hill, who died at 74. His paternal grandmother was Lucy (Payne) Washington.

When he came of school age, young Payne pursued his elementary studies in the public school. He did chores and later went to the woods to cut cord wood. No one who has ever cut cord wood hesitates to put in the class of "manual labor."

For his normal and preparatory course Mr. Payne attended the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute at Petersburg. He taught school for one year. When ready for college, he passed to Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., where he won his A.B. degree in 1907. Following that he matriculated at Howard University for his law course, winning his LL.B. degree in 1910. All the way from the public school through Normal, College and law courses, it was necessary for him to make his own way. During his course at the Normal his vacations were partly spent in a brick yard, in the state of New York. After he went to Fisk, his summers were spent in the dining car service. One thing may be said of him, he was never afraid to work. Fortunately his home, while not one of wealth or culture, was a home of Christian influences. After he was able to read, his mother had him read the Bible to her. Other books were read and they influenced him also. An incident touched his race pride and he determined to demonstrate that a Negro without of trace of white blood could succeed.

In 1912 he was admitted to the bar and located in Beckley, the county seat of Raleigh County, where he has since resided and built up a law practice of which a much older man might well be proud.

In politics Mr. Payne is a Republican and has done considerable campaigning for the party, but believes that parties and creeds should be adhered to only so long as they serve the commonwealth. He is an active member of the Baptist church in which he is chorister. He belongs to the Odd Fellows and is identified with the A. A. C. P. He is a member of the West Virginia Colored Bar Association and during the war was connected with the colored section of the local food administration.

Mr. Payne's favorite reading, after his professional books consists of history and biography. He has had opportunity to study radical conditions in the city and in the country and concludes that the first great need of the race is the improvement of the public schools. After that, all he asks for himself or the race is simply equality of opportunity, or, as some one has put it, "A man's chance."

On January 10, 1911, Mr. Payne married Miss Rebecca Holland, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They have two children, Evelyn Christine and Brown Hugo Payne.

He believes that the term "Social equality" is mis-applied and has no place in the solution of the race relationship in this country; that if the Negro be not hindered in his self-development along any and every line of his inclination toward uplift, the race problem will take care of itself; that free government cannot obtain in the United States, unless the Negro be permitted to take part in it, unhampered by any preconceived notions of his place and destiny. Pursuant to this belief, Mr. Payne has labored until success has crowned his effort to secure for his people representation on the jury of Raleigh county.


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