CRBB logo

Payne / Education

sign up or sign in to add/edit transcript

Interviewer: So, I want to know about school administrators and teachers. You said before the teachers, at least, were pretty supportive. What about other people in your academic environment? Payne: We had a very diverse teacher administration group when I was growing up in high school and the teachers who taught at our school that were white, they chose to be there, and they wanted us to learn and to have excellence. Then, the black teachers, the African-American teachers that were there, they wanted us to also learn and to also have pride in our culture. I don’t think there was a difference from the perspective—the black or white teachers all wanted us to have excellence, but I think the black teachers also wanted us to have an appreciation of our culture and a pride of who we are and who we were and where we could go and not limit ourselves. We really had a strong—the more you do research on this area, you will find schools like Lincoln, Hebert, Charlton Parlor a huge, huge, huge love for their high school. Most of our community have a greater appreciation for their high school than their college just because there was—you look at A&M and they’re an Aggie and they just love A&M or UT and their Longhorns for life. Burnt orange for the world. That’s how people are about their high schools here. People will tell you all the time—I’m an Alpha so black and gold is my love—but purple and gold is my heart. I still have purple and gold everything in my house because that’s my high school. I love my high school. I love everything my high school stood for. The reason why I am sitting where I’m sitting today has more to do with my high school and what I learned in high school than what I learned in college or law school. In high school they taught me to believe in me. No doubt about it. You believe in you and I don’t care what your socioeconomic status is, what your race is, what people have said about you, how they look at you. Believe in you. We were taught that at high school, I know at Lincoln. I suspect Hebert felt the same way or taught the same things. I have a competitiveness that will allow me to fight anybody. Whether or not it deals with basketball, it deals the courthouse, it deals with whatever. You might have received a higher education, I say statistically a higher education, you went to a better school, but you will not outwork me. I feel extremely comfortable with that. I didn’t learn that at University of Houston. I learned that at Lincoln. I finished pretty high at Lincoln, graduating salutatorian, but a lot of people felt like you did so well at Lincoln was because you went to Lincoln. Had you gone to T.J. or one of the white schools you would not have performed as well. So, when it was time for me to go to school, college, I intentionally chose a school where I was going to be a minority. I want to U of H. It was three percent black, because I wanted to show I was going to compete. I literally—it makes no sense, but it made sense to me—I wanted the PWI school. I wanted a school where no one could argue that I succeeded because it was an all-black institution. I didn’t even look at a Morehouse or a Prairie View or a Texas Southern, which certainly I think are excellent schools, but I didn’t even want to look there. I wanted an all-white school and I wanted to walk in there and I wanted to compete, and I wanted to show everyone that a student from Lincoln High School could compete with a student from St. Johns in Houston and that’s what I did. I walked in there and I didn’t necessarily have some of the financial abilities that some of the other students had but they were not going to outwork me. They didn’t.

Interview Interview with James Payne
Subjects Oral Tradition
Family › Childhood Experiences
Community Organizations
Education › Secondary Education
Education › Teachers and Administrators
Tags Lincoln High School, Port Arthur, TX
University of Texas at Austin
Prairie View A&M University
Texas Southern University
University of Houston
Texas A&M University
Hebert High School, Beaumont TX
Charlton Pollard High School, Beaumont TX
sign up or sign in to add/edit tags
Interview date 2016-06-16
Interview source CRBB Summer 2016
Interviewees Payne, James
Interviewers Grevious, Danielle
Duration 00:04:56
Citation "Education ," from James Payne oral history interview with Danielle Grevious,  June 16, 2016, Beaumont, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database,, accessed September 21, 2020