- Born in west Virginia in 1879
- Grew up in Ohio where his father worked as a coal miner
- Graduated from Denison University, Granville, Ohio in 1906
- Worked as a professor of English at west Virginia Colored Institute until 1904
- Moved to Pasadena, California in 1906
- Worked as a janitor between 1906 and 1908 because local districts refused to hire Negro teachers
Professor William Payne is one of the founders of Allensworth. Payne was a highly respected member of the community. A well educated man; he was the first school teacher and principal of Allensworth. He also organized the Glee Club and arraged its tours. At school, Mr. Payne sat in his swivel chair to point things out. On Arbor Day the students planted trees. A Bible was kept in a drawer of Mr. Payne’s desk. Mr. Payne always gave his students lectures on Black history even though it was not contained in the California series of textbooks.