Alum to be honored by hometown

Dr. Willie W. Payne, former mayor of Pontiac, Mich., published author and 1978 graduate of Grambling State University, will speak to Spearsville High School students on April 21, as part of Mayor Willie Payne Day celebration activities.

Payne is a 1974 Spearsville High School graduate.

The city first celebrated its native son on April 20, 2002, with a formal dedication ceremony and the unveiling of a monument affixed to a boulder in Spearsville Park. The park is located on Highway 15 in downtown Spearsville.

The reception, which will take place at the park, will convene at noon. April 22, and will include food, music and some giveaways for children. Activities will conclude with a gospel concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Beech Grove Baptist Church on Barnes Road in Spearsville.

All events are free and open to the public.

Spearsville Mayor Joe Futch and Farmerville Mayor Willie Davis designated Mayor Willie Payne Day because they support his drive and vision.

"Spearsville is my hometown and a major part of the foundation on which I now stand. The good Lord, my family, and the people 1 grew up around have helped propel me to what 1 am today," Payne said.

"Therefore, 1 am honored and it is an extreme privilege to return with these blessings and share them with others, especially our youth."

After earning his bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Grambling State University, The Oakland Press newspaper in Pontiac, Mich., recruited Payne as a full-time investigative news reporter. He held that position from 1978 to 1985. During those eight years, Payne was assigned to cover one of the most controversial cases of the time, which involved a religious Pontiac family accused of shooting a Montgomery. Ala., police officer. During a time of perilous race relations in the country, Payne’s reporting helped to uncover false accusation and charges, and prevented the imprisonment of the Willie James Taylor family. From his experience covering the case, Payne has authored and published The Todd Road Incident.

In 1985, he resigned his news reporter position and joined the Pontiac Police Department, where he served for 17 years. He received the second highest award for bravery from the department. A former Pontiac School Board Trustee, Payne has won many awards and recognition as a humanitarian and storyteller.

For contact information, call (318) 778-4364 or (248) 334-0339. He is affiliated with The Boys & Girls Club of America, Michigan Association for Leadership Development, NAACP, Optimist Club, Rotary Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Free and Accepted Masons Gibraltar Lodge No. I9 F&A.M. State of Michigan.

He holds an honorary doctorate degree from Shreveport Bible College. In his tenure as mayor, Payne opened doors to more economic development, grant funding and solutions to social issues that had previously hindered areas of progress in Pontiac.

He and wife Brenda have two children, Carra, 22, and B’Daren, 17.