Trailblazer in Teaneck Integration Killed
Former resident was featured in “Triumph in a White Suburb”
A former Teaneck resident hailed a trailblazer in the town’s steps toward racial integration was killed in Virginia last week, according to published reports.
In 1951, James Payne who is black, bought land on Englewood Avenue in what was then overwhelmingly white Teaneck, the Record reported. A few years later, Payne moved into the house he built himself, facing racism and prompting “white flight” in the neighborhood.
That move, the newspaper reported, led Teaneck to form a committee to explore race relations. Teaneck would later become the first largely white town to voluntarily integrate its school system. Payne is the focus of a chapter in the book “Triumph in a White Suburb,” which details racial integration in town.
Vandals struck during the construction and his home suffered major damage.
“I don’t think he ever thought of himself as a trailblazer,” his son, Keith Payne, said in the report.
Payne, 89, was a Virginia native and later moved back to the state.
“Never has there been a man with such a kind and generous heart, who always saw the good in people and went out of his way to make sure that he did all in his power to help anyone, whatever the need,” his obituary says.
A construction contractor, Payne became a business leader in Virginia and his company was credited with building churches in the Roanoke-area.
Authorities in Campbell County said Payne was found stabbed to death, roanoke.com reported. His son-in-law, 49-year-old Vincent Earl Spinner, has been charged in the murder.
The killing was apparently motivated by money, Sheriff Steve Hutcherson said in the report.
Payne was survived by his three children and seven grandchildren.
-- Staff Report