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Donald R. Payton

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Donald R. Payton

Donald Ray Payton was born September 14, 1926, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and died June 7, 2014, at his home in Springfield, Missouri, at the age of 87.

Don was preceded in death by his two sons, Gregg and Gary; his father, Victor Payton of Emporia, Kan.; his mother, Opal Cook, and his stepfather, George Cook of Plato, Mo.

Don is survived by Charlene, his loving wife of 60 years; his granddaughter Courtney Miller and her husband Darrell of ten years, and his very special great grandson, Austin Miller. Other relatives include: Colton and Whitney Miller and their son, Gabriel as well as Jeremy and Jessie Freeman and their daughters, Addison and Avery.

A published playwright, Donald authored his first play, "Bobby Sox," which was widely produced nationally in the 1940s and 1950s. His most popular full length plays, which are still produced nationally, include "Rest Assured," "Just Ducky," "Suitable for Hanging" and "They Run in Our Family." More than 75 plays he wrote were published.

Don grew up in Plato, Mo., and was a 1950 graduate of Southwest Missouri State College, now Missouri State University. He was the first sportscaster at Springfield television station KYTV, and spent two years writing for Springfield Newspapers, Inc.

In 1956 when he joined the staff at SMS, Don established the Office of Information Services, Publications and Alumni Relations at Missouri State, and he oversaw the informational aspects of that operation until his retirement in 1987. His efforts were vital to the informational phases of the unprecedented growth in enrollment and physical facilities the school enjoyed in those years. He established the school's Speakers Bureau, daily on-campus news publications, and headed the Publications Committee which oversaw the operation of the school newspaper "The Standard," and yearbook, "Ozarko." He worked in the school's name change to Southwest Missouri State University in 1972 and his special interest was sports and the football and basketball Bears.

One of Don's great joys was covering the basketball Bears of coach Bob Vanatta as MSU put together back-to-back NAIA national championships in 1952 and 1953. He authored the poem, "Ode to the Fabulous Four," which was introduced at the 50th anniversary reunion of the two NAIA championship teams in 2002, and which now is on honored display in the Legacy of Competition in the front concourse of JQH Arena from when the Bears' new facility opened in 2008. He also closely followed the basketball teams of coaches Eddie Matthews and Bill Thomas from which MSU moved from the NAIA to NCAA Division II status in 1956 and finished as national runners-up in men's basketball in 1959, 1967, 1969 and 1974. He put together the Bears' Sports Network for the radio broadcasting of Bears' games, and played a role in the building of John Q. Hammons Student Center in 1976 and the hosting by MSU of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Final Four in 1978 and 1979. He created the Honey Bears, the school's first all-student public relations organization. In addition to his playwriting, Don had a special talent for poetry. His work was featured in many places over the years, included his selection by the Missouri General Assembly as the Poet Laureate of the State Legislature.

Don continued to contribute to his alma mater, writing a column entitled "Payton Place" which appeared in the school's alumni magazine for over 40 years. In retirement, he was a member of the 2002 inaugural class of the school's Wall of Fame to honor outstanding contributions on behalf of MSU students, and he was a 2003 recipient of the Alumni Association Award of Appreciation. He and Charlene continued to enjoy Bears and Lady Bears season basketball tickets in Hammons Student Center and into the current day at JQH Arena.

He was also a long-time fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and earlier this year celebrated the 60th year of his attendance at the game May 2, 1954, when Cardinals' great Stan Musial hit five home runs in a doubleheader against the New York Giants in old Busch Stadium.

Don was a deacon and elder for many years at National Avenue Christian Church in Springfield.

Visitation will be Tuesday, June 10, 2014 from 10-11 am with services at 11 am in Gorman-Scharpf Brentwood Chapel. Private family burial will be at a later date in Hazelwood Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Payton Family Memorial Scholarship at Missouri State, 300 S. Jefferson S-100, Springfield, Missouri 65806.

Funeral Home
Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home
1947 E. Seminole Springfield, MO 65804
Funeral Home Details
Published in the News-Leader on June 9, 2014