Gene Payne
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Gene Payne's pen could be a potent weapon. It prodded and skewered politicians, and over a span of six decades, it enlightened Charlotte Observer readers - and made them smile.

Eugene Gray Payne Jr., whose editorial cartoons for the Observer won a 1968 Pulitzer Prize, died Thursday. He was 91.

Payne was hired as the Observer's first political cartoonist in 1958 and was the newspaper's first full-time cartoonist from 1960 to 1971. In an era with fewer media voices, cartoonists carried particular clout in the cities and regions where they worked, and Payne was a household name in Charlotte.

"He had a loyal following of readers, particularly people who were interested in local issues and local government," said former Observer publisher Rolfe Neill, who was a reporter when Payne was hired at the Observer in 1958. "They saw him as a conservative guy who could keep people honest."

Payne won the Pulitzer for a group of 10 cartoons, including some that focused on the Vietnam War and civil rights - and how they competed for the country's attention. One depicted President Lyndon Johnson seated on a bus and holding a screaming baby labeled "Vietnam War." In the caption, a bus driver addresses the president: "Dr. King says, Would you please move to the back of the bus?"

In May 1968, the Observer newsroom Teletype, surrounded by reporters and editors, clattered out Payne's name as a Pulitzer winner. His response was: "How about that?"

Said Jack Claiborne, a former Observer associate editor: "Gene Payne was fast. His pen was fast and his mind was fast."

He was not, however, a celebrated speller. Said Claiborne: "He always said, 'To hell with a fellow who could spell a word only one way.'"

Payne, a Charlotte native, grew up just three blocks south of the Observer's uptown building. Payne's father, Gene Payne Sr., died in an auto accident when Payne was 3. His mother, Sarah Brockenbrough Payne, had to work while Payne stayed at home with an aunt.

His mom made sure he had art supplies, and Payne amused himself with drawings. When he was about 6, he drew Joe Palooka, an old comic strip character. It made him happy, and he decided then and there that he wanted to be a cartoonist. He practiced by copying old comic strips such as "Toonerville Trolley" and "Maggie and Jiggs."

Payne studied art at Syracuse University, then enlisted in the Navy. He later enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a World War II B-29 pilot. Discharged in 1945 at Fort Bragg, he returned to Charlotte.

He would later tell colleagues that in 1946, he wasn't hired when he first applied to the Observer. Instead, he worked as a commercial artist, then a sales manager for Foremost Dairies.

In 1957, he began submitting freelance cartoons to Pete McKnight, then the Observer's editor. The next year, Payne was hired. In addition to cartoons, his duties included retouching photos and drawing maps.

Payne moved to the Birmingham (Ala.) News in 1959 to be its illustrator and editorial cartoonist, then returned to the Observer a year later - this time to be a full-time cartoonist - for a successful 12-year run. He won several national awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award and the Pulitzer, the Observer's first.

Payne preferred producing cartoons that were funny, although one of his best-known and most popular drawings was a somber effort. It was a cartoon Payne drew after the death of British elder statesman Winston Churchill in 1965. His fingers raised in the "V" for victory sign, Churchill - with hat and cane in hand - toddled off the earth and into the hereafter.

The Observer received so many requests for the cartoon that it gave away more than 8,000 copies.

Payne left the Observer again in 1971 and joined WSOC-TV as an editorial cartoonist.

For the next seven years, he drew cartoons, and wrote and directed documentaries for the station.

After deciding that his work was best done on newsprint, he returned in 1978 to the Observer, where he drew four cartoons a week.

He later drew one cartoon a week and was 90 when his last cartoon for the Observer was published in 2009.

"He's a heck of a nice guy - always very generous, supportive and encouraging," said Observer editorial cartoonist Kevin Siers. "And I was very jealous of his artistic ability."

Payne is survived by his wife, Harriet, daughters Patricia Green and Sharon Boisson, and sons Eugene, David and George.

- By Gerry Hostetler and Peter St. Onge, The Charlotte Observer
Published in Charlotte Observer on Oct. 15, 2010.
Memories & Condolences
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46 entries
October 13, 2016
This is for mr Eugene Payne. No one willl see this. Mr. Payne was my father's fast friend. He was a wonderful man and a kind one. We all let go of the past . I will not let go. He had more skill and talent than anyone I see today. He drew portraits of my sister and me in our early youth. These portraits hang in my house. They are beautiful. If the world were full of the friendship my father and Mr. Payne shared--this would be a better place!
Torrance Banks
December 14, 2012
In 1982 I sent a letter-to-the editor titled `Fast Times In Charlotte' At the top of the letter Gene had drawn a cartoon which I had never seen before or after on a letter-to-the editor. He made me feel special. It is in a frame and holds a special place in our den. He will be missed.

Paul J. Miner, Charlotte,NC
April 16, 2012
I'm honored to have some of Gene Payne's orginal art that he gave to my Mom, Mahlon Adams.
Scott Adams
December 17, 2010
My heart goes out to you all because this situation is not a easy one. I know that he lived a great life filled with many wonderful accomplishements. Gods word says that he keeps ones who have died in his memory. God also promises time of ressurection of these lost loved ones. With such wonderful thoughts continue to pray to Jehovah God I will do the same.
December 5, 2010
Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your loved one. I too have lost a loved one in death, and the pain remains. However, our Heavenly Father gives us hope and comfort in his word the Bible. I found Acts 17:31 comforting because it tells of the guarantee God gives to all men in that he resurrected his Son from the dead. With such wonderful prospects for the return of the dead, the Bible speaks comfortingly of how they will return to a cleansed earth, a new world of God's making. to be rejoined with their loved ones.
A Matthews
November 28, 2010
Gene always seemed to hit the idea right!
As a professional writer, my admiration for Gene's work grew with each new cartoon he made. He and his pen will be missed! TKR, Writer
Thayer Russell
November 20, 2010
Deepest Sympathies David and family members.
Gene was a Charlotte icon, a marvelous cartoonist, and a wonderful gentleman.
He could sum up an entire topic in one sentence.
Of all the fun, enlightening, serious and tender cartoons over the years, one that I have stolen his line from, and still use, is how he explained the IMF: "Other countries can't afford to buy our goods, so we give the IMF our money to give to them so they can buy from us." Great. I still use it today.
May your families be comforted in many happy memories of a fine life so very well lived.
Sheryn Efird
November 12, 2010
Although I didnt know Mr. Payne personally, I would like to share an encouraging scripture with his friends and family. "And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes and death will be no more, neither will mourning, nor outcry, nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away."
November 6, 2010
"May the God of comfort, who comfort us in all our trials bring you comfort at this time."(2Cor.1:3,4)
November 5, 2010
David, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Your Dad painted my sister, Pam and my portraits when I was 7 and she was 14! He was a Charlotte icon and will be missed. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Fondly, Brent Barnett Libasci
Brent Libasci
November 5, 2010
Ron Payne
November 4, 2010
In life you very seldom meet a man like Gene who’s smile was as big as his heart. He was one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to know. In the seventies Gene and I worked at WSOC-TV together and after he left we really missed him, his gentle spirit, wisdom, humor but most of all his friendship. Over the years we might get to see him for only a brief moment but it was just like he had never left.
Gene and the management dared to try something different by bringing his editorial cartoons to television news and it worked for many years. I can remember how he would come down the
hall to the studio whistling a tune and swinging his hard canvas cartoon from side to side. I will never forget that he would laugh and say, "Can you
believe that someone would actually pay us to have this much fun?"
Through my years at Channel 9 I walked through life with giants and they formed and shaped what WSOC-TV is today. Gene was definitely one of those gentle giants. Some of them were behind the scenes and some were in front of the camera. Freeman Jones,Jack Callahan, Doug Bell, Lewis Brooks, Bill Walker, Cullen Ferguson, Ray Barath,
Bob McCourt, Joe Manor, Russ Dubuc and of course his son,David and many, many more. At lunch some of them would play hand and racket ball and some would watch. We all will miss Gene greatly. He once told me that he was president of the Procrastinator's Club and I was vice president. He was so right…because I always say I will pick up the phone and call one of my friends today, then I never get around to it.
It’s too late to call Gene now but one day I will watch them play racket ball again. We are praying that God will ease your pain and walk with you during this difficult time.
Keith Smith
October 31, 2010
Sincere condolences to the family!
Our thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort. Isa 66:13
L. Ellis
October 30, 2010
Gene was a talented, creative man and among the best of editorial cartoonists. He drew charicatures of many Charlotteans and did one of my late husband Tom when he retired from The Observer. It is a wonderful reminder of both Tom and Gene.
Marilyn Bradbury
October 29, 2010
Somewhere there is footage of Gene in the old Observer newsroom receiving the news of his Pulizter Prize. I would love to see it again. It was so exciting to be a part of that time period. He was an amazing man.
Suellen Williamson McConnell
October 28, 2010
Ms Harriet, what can I say? You know how much I loved Mr.Gene. He will be sadly missed at Holden Beach. Please call me when you get back to the beach. My deepest sympathy! Love, Karen Stineman.
Karen Stineman
October 28, 2010
Ms Harriet, What can I say? You know how much everyone loved Mr Gene! He will be sadly missed at Holden Beach. He will always be in my heart. I miss you and would love for you to call me when you get back to the beach. My deepest sympathy. Love, Karen Stineman
Karen Stineman
October 28, 2010
It is wonderful when others have nice thing to say about our love ones, since a good name is better than fine oil. I am truly sorry about your sorry. Please keep in mind that he is in no pain, in death your love one is conscious of nothing at all. Ecc 9:5,6
October 23, 2010
Gene knows no Payne. He was great to work with...during the Channel Nine Editorial cartoons...and his selection of music for the background....was excellent...
From my first meeting with Gene....
Foremost Dairy building on North Tryon
Street and his making a milkshake for me.....in the 1950s..his winning smile and personality..remained the same.
You had to be there...to know him..... And even better...that he knew you.
Douglas Bell
October 23, 2010
Others have noted the kindness,class, and talent of Gene Payne. Think about the courage he had to move into television after working all those years in print. Editorial cartoons on a TV newscast? Who would have thought that would work! I had the great privilege to work with Gene and David at WSOC-TV for many years. They were BOTH class acts. I share your sadness and join many others in celebrating the life of a great Charlottean.
Bill Walker
October 22, 2010
Always a smile! Mr. Payne seemed a gentle and very giving man. Know he is at peace and cherish all of your memories. We will keep your family in our prayers.
Dianne Black
October 20, 2010
Peaches, I am saddened to learn of your loss! I too enjoyed your father's work!

You will be in our prayers.
Perry Windsor
October 20, 2010
Gene,I will miss you.
John Costin
October 20, 2010
David Payne and Family,
I did not know Gene personally, but surely knew of him when I lived in Charlotte and worked at WSOC-TV. May you discover the strength and comfort of God as you journey through this stage of loss. Larry Hardin
Larry Hardin
October 19, 2010
I met Gene Payne for the first time in 1973 while working at WSOC. I was an 18 year old part time employee who had grown up with a passion for caricature art. I bugged him until finally one day he said, "I'd better teach you how to do this before you drive me crazy". He let me sit and watch him actually ink and color his editorial cartoons. I learned so much from him. His best advice was that the secret to a good caricature is in the eyes and to always use a #2 Winsor Newton Series 7 sable brush. David, may God give you grace during this time of loss.
Kenneth Henley
October 19, 2010
You never know exactly what to say with one of these notes. It's kind of like looking at a blank sheet of paper and waiting for it to come to life. Gene Payne enlivened many a blank sheet of paper and will forever be remembered for it. It was an honor to know him.
Harvey Burgess
October 19, 2010
Growing up in Charlotte in the 1960's, I remember Gene Payne's political cartoons as a shining light that opened a whole new world of ideas and perspectives. His winning the Pulitzer Prize was like the cherry on top of the sundae. I remember feeling so lucky to see his work in our local newspaper. (Charlotte was a much smaller town then.) Gene Payne inspired me to view life from more than one lens, and then to enjoy thinking about it all.
Marcia Grier
October 19, 2010
Your words have helped to shape some of the minds on Charlotte and other cities through out this country. I learned a lot from you You will be missed
Michael Leighton
October 18, 2010
My prayers and love are with the Payne family, Years ago,
when Randolph Road in south Charlotte was a gravel road,
the Payne family moved to the "country". Wonderwood Drive
was home to two very special and gifted men, Gene Payne
and Loonis McGlohon. Peaches Payne became a wonderful
friend and one night when I spent the night, her dad did a
watercolor portrait of me. It is a treasure which hangs in my
home today. I also treasure the memories of visiting the family
in Blowing Rock, the free cokes at the Fink Sobell art gallery
and the freedom to roam....everyone knew Mrs. Payne's
grandaughter. Recently I admired a painting in a friends home
and saw the artist was Sarah Brockenbrough Payne. Talent
obviously ran in this family. Thinking of all the beautiful sketches
they can make at their reunion.!
Jane Diltz Lewis, Pinehurst, North Carolina
jane lewis
October 18, 2010
My thoughts and prayers are with the Payne family in this time of grief. He will be sorely missed.
Ben Berkman
October 17, 2010
I enjoyed Gene's cartoons for many years. I have one of his originals that is a characiture of myself that Gene drew about 35 years ago. It is museum mounted and is proudly displayed on the wall in my office. This is an item that I will always treasure. Will never forget Gene.

William A. Rowland, Retired Sgt. CMPD
October 17, 2010
My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Payne's family and friends.
Lynne Stevenson
October 17, 2010
Back in the early 1970s, Mr. Payne took time out of what I have to presume would have been a very busy Saturday to visit the Girl Scouts to talk about writing and his craft. I had always looked for his cartoons in the editorial section, and so I was in 7th heaven to get to meet him. He was so nice and seemed so interested in our group, although we were only young girls with a hope of writing some day. He is certainly a hero of mine. Leslie A. Sexton (Charlotte)
October 16, 2010
He was a very talented gentleman who was very good at his craft, even as a teen I would look for his 'art' on the op ed pages.
Shannon Price
October 16, 2010
AS A TEENAGER WORKING PART-TIME AT THE OBSERVER GENE PAYNE WAS MY HERO!
STEVE M.
October 16, 2010
GENE PAYNE WAS A CLASS ACT! Talented in so many ways. He will be missed.Many fond memories of a consumate gentleman!
J. Edward Crutchfield Jr
October 15, 2010
Gene, we had fun when I was writing editorials and you were creating the best editorial cartoons in the nation -- and the pastels of my three daughters -- and the treasured caricatures every time I made a slight move upward -- but the greatest move upward was Churchill heading to the skies. I loved you and was damned proud to call you a friend.
Ken Clark
October 15, 2010
I went to Myers Park High School with Debbie Gary I always talked with her about her father. His cartoons were so cool that I was lucky when he did one of me. It is something I have always treasured.

Gene was not only a great cartoonist but he was a good father and wonderful person who will be missed.

I express my deepest sympathy to Debbie and the rest of the Gary family.
Commissioner Lloyd Scher
October 15, 2010
Im saddened to hear of his passing. His artistic style, was a great influence on me and the art work that I have done. I was able to meet and spend time picking his brain, about cartooning. He was very helpful to me and for that, im greatful.
Tommy Rainwater
October 15, 2010
In 1975, as art director for Belk Stores Services, I was instructed to have a characture drawn of a retiring Belk executive by Mr. Payne. Each of his drawings carried a theme related to the persons hobbies or occupation. The results were right on the money. Two of my prized possessions are drawings he did of my two daughters. His friendship over the years was special.
Bill Smart
October 15, 2010
Sad to hear of Gene's passing. We first met when he'd stop by the newsroom to see my co-worker George Breisacher. When George retired we continued to chat each week when Gene dropped of his cartoons. He always had a smile and time to say hello. My condolences to his family.
Bill Pitzer
October 15, 2010
I shall miss Mr. Payne's perfect representation of local government leaders as Laurel and Hardy. His cartoons were always on the money.
Elizabeth Holtzclaw
October 15, 2010
Gene Payne was a gifted artist and a class-act human being. As a teenager, I asked him for a special drawing and he graciously agreed. That was 39 years ago and I still remember how he greeted me that day in his office. I always admired his work. Heartfelt condolences to his family as they miss him.
Fori McLean
October 15, 2010
Mr. Payne will be greatly missed. His work, especially, for the skillful manner he used to make difficult situations comprehensible. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Charlotte Blackburn
October 15, 2010
To the Payne family you have my deepest sympathy for a great man. I was just out of the Marines and started work for WSOC-TV and Mr. Payne was so nice to me. As a young black man that made me feel good. He always had a smile. I will always remember him and treasure his wonderful smile.
Dave Cook (Former WSOC-TV Employee)
October 15, 2010
Like many in Charlotte, Mr. Payne's artwork has been a staple in our lives. He will be missed greatly. I am so sorry for your loss.
Laura Pellechia
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