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Clara Louise Payne

She was born in Buffalo, NY. She was accomplished in the area of Community. She later died on 9-5-1958.
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Clara Louise Payne was a member of an old established Buffalo family. Her father, Thomas W. Payne was a native of Virginia and worked as an office clerk according to the 1920 census. Her mother Grace L. Payne was born in New York State. Mrs. Payne was identified as a matron working in a school at the time of the census.

Clara was born circa 1882. She was an active member of Buffalo's small African American community and was very involved with a local civic group that organized, among other activities, a hospitality event for African Americans visiting the 1901 Pan American Exposition. Ms. Payne was listed as one of the members of the Progressive Club's host committee. A local newspaper account of the club's party commended the group for an elaborate and festive gathering that was attended by many visitors to the Exposition.

During World War I, Ms. Payne served as a volunteer nurse at the Marine Hospital in Buffalo, during the influenza epidemic of 1917 and 1918. Ms. Payne was employed in several jobs, including positions as a domestic and as a caterer. However, by 1925 she was a social worker and is reported to have been the first African American to work in Erie County's social welfare department. She was described as a dedicated worker who retired from the Welfare Department following a 32-year career.

According to the 1920 census, Ms. Payne's, who lived with her parents on Laurel Street, marital status was listed as divorced.

Her involvement in community organizations was unprecedented. She was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Urban League, and remained involved with that organization from 1927 until her death in 1958. A member of the Board of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Ms. Payne helped to start the first integrated YWCA in the Buffalo area. Ms. Payne's interest in and devotion to the welfare of young women was also expressed through her volunteer work as a Girl Scout Troop leader. Ms. Payne was also a long-time member and officer in the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP.

Ms. Payne was a member of St. Philip's Episcopal Church where she founded the St. Mary's Guild, the Women's Day worship services and the church's annual Coronation Ball. She also served as a member of the Altar Guild.

Upon learning of her death, on September 5, 1958, the Buffalo Urban League Board passed a resolution that concluded: "Among her many virtues there were integrity, tact, gentleness, a delightful sense of humor, and patience. One can hardly do justice to a characterization of Miss Payne unless she is described as a saint who temporarily sojourned on earth."


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IN MEMORIAM: Clara L. Payne
Buffalo Urban League, Inc.
Buffalo, NY, September 17, 1958

The death of Miss Clara L. Payne is a sad event, which we regretfully record. It is not a task to relish. Formal Resolutions by our Buffalo Urban League Directors seem out of keeping for an individual like Miss Payne. Her death on September 5, 1958 leaves a vacancy in our midst which, without exaggeration, will be impossible to fill.

Miss Payne has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Urban League ever since it was organized in 1927.

Miss Payne, a former board member of the YWCA helped start the first integrated YWCA in Buffalo. She was a past officer of the NAACP here.

During World War I she served as a volunteer nurse at the Marine Hospital here during the influenza epidemic of 1917 and 1918.

At St. Philip's she founded St. Mary's Guild, started Women's Day worship services on Passion Sunday, helped start the annual Coronation Ball, served on the Altar Guild and formerly led a Girl Scout Troop. Until her last illness, she taught in the weekday religious school at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral.

For 32 years, Miss Payne was a social worker in the Welfare Department. In the delicate task of visiting families who were new in this community, many of them handicapped, bewildered or both, she was without a peer. Among her many virtues there were integrity, tact, gentleness, a delightful sense of humor, and patience. One can hardly do justice to a characterization of Miss Payne unless she is described as a saint who temporarily sojourned on earth.

We, the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Urban League, shall miss her advice and congeniality. We shall miss her bubbling merriment so often manifested during informative conversations at our luncheons prior to the introduction of business.

Words are quite inadequate to express the real sense of loss that we feel through the death of Miss Payne. May her soul be at peace!

Be it unanimously resolved: At a meeting of the Directors of the Buffalo Urban League, Inc. held on September 17, 1958, that the foregoing resolution be adopted, spread upon the minutes of this meeting, and a copy be forwarded to the family of Miss Clara L. Payne.

Robert W. McNulty
Chairman, Committee on Resolutions