The following article appeared in the Laurel, Mississippi newspaper Laurel Leader-Call,
dated November 18, 2007, hence the reference to Payne's "future" book, The Long Drive.

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Chris Zimmerman, the publisher of the Laurel Leader-Call.

Cleveland Payne: Tops in running and writing
Local author, athlete talks about running, retirement

By Dale McKee

All athletes seem to know when to retire, and age is often the number one determination of when an athlete hangs his or her career up.

But Laurel’s famous resident writer Cleveland Payne has had a few good years left as he has competed in the 70–74 age bracket in track and field. The still youthful looking Payne, who took part in the Master Track and Field part of the Greater Baton Rouge Senior Olympics, was awarded All-American status in two events. He ran a 1:12:02 in the 400 meter and ran an impressive 2:52:19 in the 800 meter run.

Payne has run in the Master Track and Field circuit the last ten years and has won over 70 first place medals running for leisure. Payne also does a lot of power walking as he walks 90 per cent of the time in his training.

Now, however, he declares he is through with competing. “I am officially retired from track competition. I always felt I had to give my best effort in each and every race. I think I have done that the last ten years,” said the retired Jones County school teacher and coach. Payne’s last races were in the State Games of Mississippi back in June. At 6-foot-3 and wearing a size 14 running shoe, he has a natural stride in the 800 meters. “I think the 800 is my natural race with the razor thin body frame that I have,” said Payne. Although he is retiring from active competition, Payne says he still wants to walk for his health. “I will continue to walk ten miles every other day. I see the tremendous health benefit that it serves,” he said.

Payne is also one heck of a writer. He attributes part of his success to the familiarity he has with his subjects. “You write best when you write what you know,” stated Payne. As he writes, he pays great attention to using precise words. “Writing is much like painting a picture: you have to be careful to select the right words to paint the right picture,” he adds.

This writing philosophy has led him to three successful novels: The Defining Moment (2000), The House of the Boulevard (2002), and The Silver Pendant (2006). Payne, who worked in the movie houses of Laurel when he was growing up, says that his stories tell a lot about his life in our town. In fact, the experiences of his fictional character Slim McCall bear many resemblances to Payne’s own past experiences.

He has also written volumes of non-fiction, including The Oak Park Story (1988), A History of Black Laurel (1990), From Kemper to California—The Long Journey (1992), The Road to San Antonio: The Journey of Career Airman Johnny Hearn (1995) , and Laurel Remembrances (1996).

Payne, who graduated from Oak Park High School in 1957 and is in the school’s Athletic Hall-of-Fame, was awarded one of his most treasured medals when the City of Laurel presented him with the Millennium Medal in February of 2000. “Anytime you are recognized by your hometown, it is the ultimate compliment,” stated an appreciative Payne.

Payne will now take time to work on his fourth Slim McCall novel The Long Drive due out in 2008 [now available].