James Alvin Payne, Jr, age 93, of Richmond, finished this life March 8, 2024. Born in Richmond on June 1, 1930, he was the son of James A. Payne, Sr. and Ann Elizabeth Staples Payne. Jim lived in several towns throughout Virginia, including Front Royal, as well as in Wilson, NC and Bristol, TN. He was a 1951 graduate of The University of Richmond, with a BA in Psychology. It was here that Jim met his future wife, Mary Aylett Creath, a student at Westhampton College.

After graduation, Jim was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps and served in Korea with the 1st Marine Division as a platoon leader and company officer.  He was awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat V for Valor and the Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged from the Reserve in 1959 with the rank of Captain.

Upon returning from Korea in 1953, he and Mary were married, and Jim entered Union Theological Seminary. After earning a Master of Divinity in 1956, he served as the first pastor of the newly established First Presbyterian Church in Annandale. In 1962, he was called to be the first pastor of Meadows Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville and served there for 6 years. In Jim’s words these years in the mid-sixties “stimulated a lot of soul-searching and troubled thought about caring for people and being committed to social justice.”

The Synod of Virginia called him to be their Executive in 1968. It was there that Jim worked alongside other ministers and laypersons who toiled tirelessly, in his words, “lifting up the pressing societal issues for theological reflection and guidance to the churches.”  After assisting the transition to a combined Virgina and West Virginia Synod headquartered in Roanoke, Jim resigned this position in 1975. Following a work/ study sabbatical, he served as the Associate Director for Social Concerns at the Virginia Council of Churches from 1977-1982. There he formulated a vision for the creation of an interfaith religious presence in the arena of Virginia’s governance. From this vision, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) was established in 1982, with Jim as its founding Executive Director. The VICPP continues today as an important force advocating for legislation to correct racial, social, and economic injustices in Virginia. Jim retired from VICPP in 1990 but continued to champion for social justice for the remainder of his life.

Throughout his career and retirement, Jim organized and led efforts to make the world a better place for all. He served on a number of state and local boards, commissions, and committees including the State Board of Social Services, Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Judicial System, Task Force on Indigent Health Care, Virginia Supreme Court Consumer Panel for Court Reforms, Commission on Families, City of Richmond Committee on Homelessness and Land Use, Human Services Advisory Council, Board of Directors Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth, Hunger Foundation, and State Anti-Poverty Commission.  He also received many honors throughout his life, including the 2003 Virginia First Freedom Award. He was an adjunct faculty member at Union Theological Seminary, teaching a course in public policy at the State Capitol during the annual General Assembly sessions. Jim volunteered to provide disaster relief in Mississippi and to rehabilitate homes for the elderly and indigent persons throughout the Richmond metropolitan area. He organized and led interdenominational groups to Bath and Highland Counties where they constructed handicap ramps and did other needed home repairs.  Jim lived his life passionately committed to the welfare of others, firmly believing that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Jim met few strangers. He loved to travel, to fish, to grow vegetables with Mary, and to “putter.” He found quiet peace in Mathews County on the Chesapeake Bay and also in the mountains of Bath County where the Payne family had roots. He cherished having family and friends close and found immeasurable joy in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was devoted to his family and instilled in them that “to whom much is given, of them much is required.”

Mary, his wife of 62 years, and Ann Long, his sister, preceded him in death.

He is survived by four children: J. Lewis Payne of Pullman, WA, Sarah Redington (James) of Hot Springs, Elizabeth Lowe (Randy) of Abingdon, and Martha Meyer (Mark) of Winston-Salem, NC; six grandchildren: Rebecca Lupesco (Anthony), Matthew Lowe (Brittany), Steven Lowe (Abbey), Carson Meyer, Claire Meyer (Payton), and West Redington; eight great-grandchildren: Lucy and Arthur Lupesco; Riggs, Remi, and Fanci Lowe; Cooper and Hudson Lowe, and Ellis Duran; his brother-in-law, Wayne Long;  and his sister-in-law, Alice McCullough. He is also survived by a host of treasured nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

To celebrate Jim’s life, a memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. on April 28, 2024, at Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond. In lieu of flowers, suggestions for memorial contributions include the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Project:HOMES, Alzheimer’s research, or a charity of choice.



  1. Sarah, Jim, West and family I am so sorry for your loss, God be with you for comfort and healing and always love you guys, Bootsie

    • Thank you, Bootsie, for your kind message. We will miss Dad deeply. He was an amazing man.

  2. Elizabeth and family, I am so sorry to learn of your father’s passing. His obituary speaks to his wonderful life and service to his church, country, family and the people. I will plan to celebrate his life well lived with you via the livestream. God bless you and your family in the days and months ahead. You are in my prayers.

    • Thank you for your words and prayers, Penny. Dad will be missed deeply.


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