Richard's Story

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Richard Harold Payne, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and former longtime chair and faculty member of the Sam Houston State University (SHSU) Political Science Department, passed away on April 20, 2016, due to complications of COPD. Dr. Payne was also a former Associate Vice-President of Research and Sponsored Programs at Sam Houston State University, where he and his staff worked with outside funding agencies, including all levels of state and federal government. An avid and passionate birdwatcher for nearly half his life, he traveled globally in pursuit of his hobby and research. Upon retiring from the university in 2001, he became more deeply involved in his lifelong nonprofit work-- most notably with the American Birding Association (ABA), where he was the President and CEO from 2006 to 2009. Throughout the latter half of his life, and most notably involving his work with the ABA, Dr. Payne visited all seven continents at least once to see avian fauna in their natural habitat. Additionally, he was an accomplished nature photographer and had several photographs published in guidebooks, textbooks, and travel brochures. His global travels and passion for "birding" allowed him to view in person more than half of all known species of birds.
Dr. Payne was a towering presence, physically and intellectually, at SHSU, where he served with distinction, and in the surrounding community for 34 years. Many former students will recall his classroom lectures as demanding but fair; and those who came to know him more closely and worked with him will recall his wit and humor, as well as his generosity and loyalty to fellow faculty members and to any student who took academics seriously. He influenced the lives of thousands of undergraduate students and many dozens of graduate students both in and out of the classroom, and mentored many junior faculty members who later went on to distinguished careers at SHSU and other institutions. As a longtime administrator and faculty member of SHSU, he saw many positive changes take place at the university during his tenure, and was an influential member of many university committees that shaped the growth of the university--most notably the Ten Year Master Plan Committee that developed the university's mission statement for the 1980s and 1990s, and played an important role in laying the foundation for the university as it entered the 21st century.
He was author or co-author of more than 50 papers and presentations on the social and economic impacts of nature tourism and was an early researcher in the field known today as ecotourism. Because of his research, he was an oft-invited speaker to ecotourism symposia around the world, including the United Nations Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics. Along with his work in ecotourism, he authored numerous papers on sustainable development and environmental policy.
Richard Harold Payne was born on April 30, 1941, in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was the third son, and youngest child, of Calvin Lee Payne, Sr., and Helen Josephine Payne (née Hennessey). Though born in Massachusetts, he spent the majority of his childhood in Evans, Georgia, and North Augusta, South Carolina, where he was a graduate of North Augusta High School, lettering in drama and football, and playing on state championship football teams. Payne received his undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Georgia (UGA). He stayed at UGA to complete his Masters and Doctorate in Political Science, matriculating with his Ph.D. in 1970.
Prior to a long career in academia, Payne worked in radio broadcasting in Georgia and South Carolina where his on-air voice was well known by many in eastern Georgia and western South Carolina. He started on-air at WGAU in Augusta, Georgia as a disc jockey and news broadcaster where he co-produced and hosted popular music programs and music concerts. Not long after his success at WGAU, he became the News Director of WBBQ, a CBS-affiliated radio station, also in Augusta. As WBBQ's News Director he received the Associated Press Outstanding Broadcast Journalism Award in four successive years. During and after the immediate completion of his Ph.D., Payne was an Associate Professor of Political Science at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, before joining the SHSU faculty in 1972 as Chair of the Department of Political Science.
Throughout his career at SHSU and after retirement, Richard Payne was involved in many nonprofit organizations as an officer or director. He was a longtime volunteer and scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and was a committee member of the BSA's George Strake District for 14 years through the 1980s and early 1990s. Many of Payne's most notable contributions and accomplishments from his volunteer work were in the area of ecotourism and wildlife conservation. He was a member and former officer of the Huntsville chapter of the Audubon Society. He served as Research Associate and member of the Academic Advisory Board for ecotourism at the Instituto Monteverde, Monteverde, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, from 1997 to 2001. He was also a member of the board of directors of Watchable Wildlife, Inc., from 1994 to 2001, and left that organization's board in 2001 with the title of Director Emeritus.
Richard Payne was a devoted son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and good friend, who will be missed by many who knew him, and by his loving family. He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Kathy Payne (née Freydenfeldt); son, Jim Payne, and daughter-in-law, Stephanie Payne, of Lewisville, Texas; daughter, Linn Payne, and son-in-law, Troy-David Phillips, of Annandale, Virginia; grandchildren Rachel Garton and David Payne, both of Denton, Texas; brother, Tom Payne, and sister-in-law, Hettie Payne, of Jonesboro, Georgia; sister-in-law, Jennie Payne, of Jasper, Georgia, and nieces and nephews across the country. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Harriett Payne (née Rowan), in 1977; an older brother, Lee Payne, of Atlanta, Georgia, in 2003; and a grandson, Will Phillips, of Annandale, Virginia, in 2015.
Services for Dr. Payne will be on Friday, June 24, 2016, at 11 a.m., at The Gabriels Funeral Chapel in Georgetown, Texas, followed by interment of his ashes at Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Briggs, Texas. In lieu of flowers the family urges donations to either the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds.cornell.edu) or the COPD Foundation (copdfoundation.org).
Published on June 21, 2016
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