Dr. Charles Payne, Ball State University's first Black faculty member to achieve tenure and professor rank, has reportedly died at the age of 80.
Dr. Payne is survived by his wife of 50 years, Dr. June Payne, their son, Dr. Gregory (Dr. Brittany) Payne, a son-in-law, Cavin Abram, three granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Lauren Payne.
Dr. Payne spent 41 years at Ball State, starting in 1972 as an assistant professor of Secondary Education and director of the Preparation of Teachers for Multi-Cultured Schools Program and started the University’s first multicultural education program. He retired in 2013, having earned the titles of Assistant Provost for Diversity, Emeritus; Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Emeritus; and Professor of Secondary Education, Emeritus.
Dr. Payne was involved in various endeavors and organizations around Muncie and East Central Indiana.
He was past president of the local Kiwanis chapter, Lt. Governor of the Wapahani Division and was a dedicated member of the Bethel AME Church in Muncie, serving as its secretary for about two decades. Other boards, memberships, and organizations he served included Motivate Our Minds, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Muncie Action Plan and the Martin Luther King (MLK) Dream Team.
Dr. Payne was born the youngest of five children in 1942 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, at a time when states still practiced legal segregation. His father died in a car crash a short time before his birth so his uncle offered to raise Charles and his brother, and while living with their Uncle Lawrence and his wife, the Payne brothers had access to books and other advantages.
Dr. Payne was four years old when he was diagnosed with polio and was told he’d never walk again. As time passed, Dr. Payne learned to walk after all.
Dr. Payne graduated from Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1962. He earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1965 and taught chemistry for several years in the segregated public school system in Mississippi, and also taught at Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena, Miss., before earning his doctorate at the University of Virginia in 1972 and moving to Muncie and Ball State.
Dr. Payne’s legacy is felt in many ways at Ball State, especially at the University’s new 9,500-square-foot Multicultural Center that opened in 2021 in the heart of campus. Among the many annual Achievement Awards offered by those at the Multicultural Center is the Dr. Charles Payne Olive Branch Award, presented to a student who "promotes diversity and cross-cultural sensitivity among all people, who strives to transcend all cultural and racial boundaries and who best demonstrates tolerance and acceptance of diversity as expressed by the mission of the Multicultural Center to support and advance the University’s commitment to cultural diversity."
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, June 25, 2022, at First Presbyterian Church, 1400 W. Riverside Avenue, Muncie, Ind., 47303. Calling hours are set to run from 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 24, 2022, at First Presbyterian. Benediction and Interment will be at the Gardens of Memory Cemetery, 10703 SR-3, Muncie, Ind., 47303.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Bethel A.M.E. Church Scholarship Fund, 1020 E. Jackson Street, Muncie, IN 47305.