About the Author The Oak Park Story Laurel Remembrances The Silver Pendant The Wide Circle The Defining Moment The House on the Boulevard Cleveland Payne

Click here to read a newspaper article about Cleveland Payne in his hometown newspaper.

Cleveland Payne is a lifelong resident of Laurel, Mississippi, and a 1957 graduate of Oak Park Vocational High School where he was an outstanding athlete. He was inducted into the Oak Park Hall of Fame in July 2000 in the journalism field.

He attended Campbell Junior College in Jackson, Mississippi, and was named to the all-state team Southern Intercollegiate Conference (SIC), 1958.

Payne received his undergraduate degree from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1965. While at Rust, although majoring in the social sciences, his talent for writing was discovered by his English instructor, who encouraged him to write as much as possible. He enjoyed writing, but with his full schedule as a talented basketball player and track star, there was little time to pursue this interest.

His journey as an author started to take direction while completing his graduate work at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg. Although he had a wide range of interests, he eventually discovered a great affinity for history and research. In 1982, he became the first student to earn a Specialist in History at USM in the new degree program. His thesis was titled "Economics, Education, and Religious Forces in the Development of a Black Middle Class in Laurel, Mississippi, from 1883 to 1928."

Payne is the author of twelve books. They include The Oak Park Story: A Cultural History (1988), Laurel, A History of the Black Community (1990), From Kemper to California—The Long Journey (1992), The Road to San Antonio: The Journey of Career Airman Johnny Hearn (1995), Laurel Remembrances (1996), The Defining Moment (2000), The House on the Boulevard (2002), The Silver Pendant (2006), The Long Drive (2008), A Valleyplace (2009), The journey of a Mississippi Soldier in the Second World War; a Biography of Isaac L. Thomas (2014), and Laurel City Hall Centennial — a Survey History, 1914 through 2014 (2014).

On February 14, 2000, his hometown of Laurel honored him with the Millennium Medallion in recognition of his lifelong commitment to illuminating the beauty of life in Laurel through his lyrical writings and memoirs.

He and his late wife, Alice Faye, are the parents of two children, Estella and Kenny. Kenny made them very proud grandparents with granddaughter Alexis and grandson Alex.